Senators are preparing to put the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure proposal backed by President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE through a legislative gauntlet as negotiators work to maintain, and potentially grow, their coalition.
Getting the bill through the Senate would be a win for Biden and a core group of centrists who have made big political bets on the ability of Congress to cut long-sought deals. And the negotiators are feeling increasingly bullish about their chances for success after overcoming two early hurdles.
But plenty of challenges lie ahead.
Republicans are pushing for a lengthy Senate debate, including votes as potential changes to the bill, even as Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) wants to wrap up the entire process in a matter of days. Not all of the 17 GOP senators who have helped advance the package have committed to sticking with it, and top progressives haven’t vowed their support.
“There’s going to be curveballs after curveballs,” said Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyGOP senator on Texas abortion law: Supreme Court will 'swat it away' when 'it comes to them in an appropriate manner' GOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect MORE (R-La.), a member of the bipartisan group.
Asked about Schumer’s plan to pass the bill in a matter of days, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats make case to Senate parliamentarian for 8 million green cards Democrats to make pitch Friday for pathway to citizenship in spending bill Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime MORE (R-Texas) added, “Oh, I think he’s being overly optimistic.”
The floor slog comes as senators have been negotiating late into the night to try to finalize the text of their agreement after they announced earlier this week that they had a deal on the “major issues” with Biden’s blessing. That major step forward came roughly a month after the core group of 10 senators announced an agreement on a framework for $1.2 trillion over eight years.
Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken McConnell: Republicans 'united in opposition to raising the debt ceiling' MORE (R-Ohio), after the group met with Schumer late Friday afternoon, said two of the biggest sticking points had been resolved: transit and broadband provisions.
“So we’re ready to go,” he said.
But Republicans say they want to offer a substantial number of amendments. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' MORE (R-Ky.), who has voted to advance the bill so far, warned that his caucus wants a “robust, bipartisan floor process.”
Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneManchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Manchin-McConnell meet amid new voting rights push Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 GOP senator, predicted that he and other Senate Commerce Committee Republicans would likely have changes to the broadband language.
And Cornyn said he is drafting amendments to change how the bill is paid for, including looking at user fees, a revenue stream that Democrats have balked at putting on the table.
“We’re working on some ideas that maybe could help bolster the pay-fors,” he said.
Asked if Republicans are going to want amendments, Sen. 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 (R-N.D.), who has been supporting the package, added “Oh yeah, for sure, and so will the Democrats.”
Leadership is likely going to have to negotiate an agreement on how many amendments come up for a vote and how to divide them up between Republicans and Democrats.
“I’ve talked to some colleagues on our side and on their side who have amendments that sound pretty reasonable to me,” Portman said.
The bipartisan deal has sparked backlash from conservatives and former President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE, who argue that by helping Democrats pass the $1.2 trillion plan, which includes $550 billion in new spending, they are making it easier for Democrats to pass an expansive $3.5 trillion plan. Democrats are planning to use budget rules that let them bypass Republicans in order to pass the larger bill, which will include some of the party’s top priorities, such as immigration reform, expanding Medicare and combating climate change.
GOP Sens. Rick Scott (Fla.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEconomy adds just 235K jobs in August as delta hammers growth Lawmakers flooded with calls for help on Afghanistan exit Afghanistan fiasco proves we didn't leave soon enough MORE (Utah), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Internal poll shows Barnes with 29-point lead in Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate facing 4 felony charges MORE (Wis.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails The Memo: Like the dress or not, Ocasio-Cortez is driving the conversation again Ocasio-Cortez defends attendance of Met Gala amid GOP uproar MORE (Texas), Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Hawley pledges to slow walk Biden's Pentagon, State picks over messy Afghanistan exit MORE (Mo.), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Overnight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens US gymnasts offer scathing assessment of FBI MORE (Tenn.) and Mike BraunMichael BraunRepublicans unveil bill to ban federal funding of critical race theory Earmarks, the swamp's favorite tool, return to Washington Senate in talks to quickly pass infrastructure bill MORE (Ind.) said in a joint statement that they would not be supporting the bipartisan bill.
“Let’s not forget, this is just the first step in the Democrats’ plan to pass their $5.5 trillion tax and spend liberal wish list,” they said, referencing an analysis from budget watchdog group the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget that found the $3.5 trillion bill could cost up to $5.5 trillion over a decade if made permanent.
And while 17 GOP senators have backed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan measure during procedural votes, several described themselves as tentative until they see the legislative text and an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office on whether the provisions will cover the cost of the proposal.
“I can’t say until I see the statutory language. In fact, I can tell you that I told the whip organization that I’ll vote to move to the bill, but I’m not going to tell you how I’m going to vote for the bill yet,” said Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyWoman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh MORE (R-Iowa).
Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE (Mo.), one of the two members of GOP leadership who supported starting debate on the bill, added, “I want to be a yes.”
And Cramer, asked if he will support the bill in a final vote, said, “Not yet ... but I expect to land there,” absent big changes.
Members of the bipartisan group are hoping they will be able to pick up more support before a final vote. Some Republicans, such as Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (Pa.), have said they voted no earlier because they hadn’t seen the final legislation. And in a boon to the group, Cornyn, who has so far not supported the bill, predicted the Senate would pass the package.
“[Schumer’s] going to have to give people an opportunity to have a reasonable number of amendments ... but I think that this is going to pass, and I think it will pass before the end of next week,” he said.
Meanwhile, progressives have fumed at Democrats for using months of time trying to negotiate a bipartisan deal instead of focusing on moving everything on their own. Schumer has vowed to approve a budget resolution, which greenlights the larger package, before leaving for a weeks-long summer break, but passage of the $3.5 trillion spending bill will wait until at least September.
Lauren Maunus, advocacy director for Sunrise Movement, called the bipartisan deal “pathetic” and “comically and terrifyingly small.”
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBriahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Sanders 'disappointed' in House panel's vote on drug prices Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants MORE (I-Vt.), who voted to advance the bill over two initial hurdles, declined to say if he would vote for it on final passage.
“We still have a work in progress here on amendments,” he said.
Democrats say they are expecting potential amendments from their side of the aisle on broadband and drinking water language.
Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - US speeds evacuations as thousands of Americans remain in Afghanistan Biden finds few Capitol Hill allies amid Afghanistan backlash Trains matter to America MORE (D-Del.), who wants full funding included for his water infrastructure bill that previously passed the Senate and money for fixing lead pipe water contamination, said he had been talking with leadership and Senate Democrats more broadly.
“There are a couple of areas where I’ve consistently said we need to do more,” Carper said, adding that he was also “very much interested in the pay-fors.”
But senators are skeptical about how many, if any, changes get added to the bipartisan deal. In the House, Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sticks to his Afghanistan deadline Biden commends Pelosi for 'masterful' leadership Overnight Energy: Democrats tout new report to defend KeystoneXL cancellation MORE (D-Ore.) has been pushing for the Senate to enter negotiations to include provisions from his own House-passed infrastructure bill.
But even Carper, who has been in frequent contact with DeFazio, acknowledged that there was unlikely to be a conference committee.
“In a perfect world, we would want to go to conference. ... I don’t think that’s going to be an option,” Carper said, but added that he and DeFazio would have a “dialogue.”
Members of the bipartisan group say they have a general understanding that they will vote against potential amendments, which they might otherwise support, if it threatens the ability of the underlying bill to get the 60 votes needed to ultimately pass. And they are hoping the upcoming budget resolution, where any senator can force a vote, will take some of the pressure off the debate on their bill.
“We don’t want to change the fundamental issues,” Portman said.
Sen. 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 (R-N.C.), who has been supportive of the proposal, added that the group should “maintain the integrity” of the bipartisan deal.
“I’m a big believer in the open amendment process,” he said. “I think what’s important for those of us who have agreed to the specific deal, that we maintain the integrity of it, unless somebody comes out with something that we all mutually agree makes it better.”