Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal

The Senate on Wednesday agreed to take up a bipartisan infrastructure package, hours after senators and the White House announced they had reached a deal after weeks of closed-door haggling. 

Senators voted 67-32 to greenlight the debate, with 17 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats to launch a floor effort that could conclude with a Senate victory for a bipartisan package that has been championed by President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE.

GOP Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMissouri official asks court to suspend McCloskeys' law licenses GOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate MORE (Mo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Emboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes NC Republican primary key test of Trump's sway MORE (N.C.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Capito grills EPA nominee on '#ResistCapitalism' tweet GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization MORE (W.Va.), Bill CassidyBill CassidyHouse passes bill to prevent shutdown and suspend debt limit Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid Sunday shows - Boosters in the spotlight MORE (La.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Welcome to ground zero of climate chaos MORE (Maine), Kevin CramerKevin John CramerThe Memo: Biden beats Trump again — this time in the Senate The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill Republicans unveil bill to ban federal funding of critical race theory MORE (N.D.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoThe Energy Sector Innovation Credit Act is an industry game-changer The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill Wyden asks White House for details on jet fuel shortage amid wildfire season MORE (Idaho), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Ohio Republican tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case Trump lawyer offered six-point plan for Pence to overturn election: book MORE (S.C.), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Grassley leads Finkenauer by 18 points in hypothetical matchup: poll 62 percent in Iowa disapprove of Biden, poll shows MORE (Iowa), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenThe 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (N.D.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump, allies launch onslaught as midterms kick into gear Emboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - DC prepares for Saturday of festivals & Jan. 6 demonstration MORE (Alaska), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Afghan evacuation still frustrates DHS chief 'horrified' by images at border DHS secretary condemns treatment of Haitian migrants but says US will ramp up deportations MORE (Ohio), Jim RischJim Elroy RischAides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims Lobbying world Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken MORE (Idaho), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Five questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (Utah), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime How to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) MORE (N.C.) Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHow to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) Senate Democrats try to defuse GOP budget drama The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill MORE (Ind.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Woodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China MORE (Ky.) voted to advance the bill. 

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Big hurdles remain for the bill to reach a final vote, and negotiators are still finalizing text — the Senate is currently using a shell bill that will eventually include agreed upon language. 

Still, Wednesday represented a win for Biden and the negotiators.

“We now have an agreement on the major issues. We are prepared to move forward,” Portman, who led the talks for Republicans, told reporters. “We look forward to moving ahead. And having the opportunity to have a healthy debate here.” 

Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaDemocrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (Ariz.), who led the talks for the Democrats, added to reporters: “We’re very excited to have a deal. I want to just say everyone has been incredible in doing this work for many months.” 

Wednesday’s vote comes roughly a month after Biden and the 10 senators at the core of the bipartisan negotiating group announced outside the White House that they had reached a deal on a framework for roughly $1.2 trillion over eight years. 

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But the group struggled to nail down the details, including how to pay for the agreement after Republicans took ramped up IRS enforcement, which was expected to be a significant source of revenue, off the table. 

Some changes were made between when the framework was announced and Wednesday, when details of their agreement started to be unveiled. Though the total cost of the group’s proposal is $1.2 trillion over eight years, $579 billion of that was expected to be new spending. On Wednesday, senators revealed that number dropped to $550 billion including cutting an “infrastructure bank” that was meant to help spur private investment in large projects. 

The deal includes funding for roads, bridges, public transit, electric buses, clean drinking water and broadband.

“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things. As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future,” Biden said in a statement. 

Negotiators raced to brief their colleagues on their agreement ahead of Wednesday's vote, as they tried to lock in the 60 votes needed to get over the initial hurdle. 

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Republicans, who blocked debate last week, were given binders during a closed-door lunch with a roughly 30-page summary of the deal, according to one senator’s estimate. Some argued that Democrats were trying to rush the process. 

“Until this bill is actually written and we have a chance to review it, including all the details, the costs, the pay-fors, and the impact it will have on our states, I will not support it. And I imagine the majority of my Republican colleagues feel the same way,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats up ante in risky debt ceiling fight Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Democrats make case to Senate parliamentarian for 8 million green cards MORE (Texas). 

But Republicans throughout Wednesday said they would back the initial vote, including Graham, Burr, Cramer and Tillis.

Shortly before the vote, in a boon to GOP negotiators, Capito, who had not been part of the bipartisan talks, and McConnell announced that they would vote to start debate. 

Senators still face a days-long slog to finish up debate on the legislation. 

Republicans, who quizzed negotiators during a closed-door lunch on the deal, are warning that they want the ability to offer amendments and are warning Democrats against trying to quickly end debate. 

"We'll advocate for an open amendment process," said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThis week: Democrats face mounting headaches Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican.

"My assumption is at some point, if we get on it, that McConnell and Schumer will have to negotiate a deal that enables at least a good number of amendments to be offered," he said, speaking of Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLouisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in McConnell signals Senate GOP will oppose combined debt ceiling-funding bill MORE (D-N.Y.).

He added that some GOP senators were "going to be really dug in against it" and predicted that the Senate would have to use a "good amount of time" on the agreement before a final vote. 

The bipartisan bill is one part of a two-part strategy Democrats are pursuing to pass Biden’s infrastructure package. 

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Schumer has vowed the Senate will vote before leaving for a weeks-long break on both the bipartisan deal and a budget resolution that will allow Democrats to pass a second, substantially larger bill without Republican support. 

The two tracks are tied together: Moderates have warned that without a bipartisan deal there might not be the second larger package. And Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats seek to cool simmering tensions Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power MORE (D-Calif.) has warned that she will not take up the Senate’s bipartisan bill until it passes the second package. 

Because Schumer will need all 50 of his members to pass both the budget resolution and the subsequent spending package, all Democrats will have leverage to elbow for their priorities in the bill, which is already expected to include top agenda items such as expanding Medicare, combating climate change and immigration reform. 

There are plenty of headaches awaiting Democrats in what is expected to be a months-long process. Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Polls open in California as Newsom fights for job MORE (D-Mont.) has said he will vote to start debate on the budget resolution, but he hasn’t said if he can support the end product. Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Biden, Xi talk climate at UN forum Election reform in the states is not all doom and gloom Manchin presses Interior nominee on leasing program review MORE (D-W.Va.) has described himself as open but hasn’t committed to anything. 

And on Wednesday, Sinema warned that she was willing to vote to start the process but was going to push for changes including to the $3.5 trillion price tag for the Democrats' bill. 

"I have also made clear that while I will support beginning this process," she said, "I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion."