Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session
Senators unveiled a $1.2 trillion, eight-year infrastructure bill during a rare Sunday session after negotiators worked through the weekend.
The 2,702-page bill, spearheaded by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and a larger group of roughly two dozen negotiators, is substantially narrower than the multitrillion-dollar plan envisioned by President Biden earlier this year but includes a wide range of funding for roads, bridges, transit, broadband and water.
“We are proud this evening to announce this legislation, and we look forward very much to working with our colleagues in a collaborative and open way over the coming days to work through this historic investment in infrastructure,” said Sinema from the Senate floor with the other negotiators.
Portman touted the bill, saying that the group is “getting it right tonight for the American people, for our economy and for the future of our great country.”
Supporters of the bill are hopeful that they can pass the measure by the end of the week, though opponents could use the Senate’s rulebook to drag it out if they want to.
Though the bill, named the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, costs an estimated $1.2 trillion over eight years, it includes only $550 billion in new spending. That, according to the White House, includes the largest investment ever by the federal government in public transit and the largest investment ever in clean drinking water and wastewater.
The introduction of the bipartisan bill caps off months of behind-the-scenes negotiations among lawmakers, including announcing with Biden in late July that they had reached a deal on a framework for a $1.2 trillion bill over eight years.
After talks appeared on the brink of collapse last Monday amid intense public fighting, senators and the White House were able to get them back on track and announced Wednesday that they had reached a deal on the “major issues.”
But they spent much of this week trying to resolve final sticking points, including a last-minute hiccup on broadband that negotiators say didn’t get resolved until Friday. That kept negotiators perennially predicting they were on the cusp of unveiling their bill but not quite ready, kicking the Senate into a rare weekend session.
The Senate convened on Saturday at 11 a.m. and stayed in limbo for roughly 10 hours as it waited for the group to release its legislation. But Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced shortly before 10 p.m. that they need more time and that the Senate would reconvene on Sunday.
Schumer met with four of the core Democratic negotiators on Saturday as talks continued: Sens. Mark Warner (Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Sinema.
Warner indicated on Saturday that pieces of the bill were still being drafted, saying that they were finishing up the “last couple pieces of legislative language.” Senators appeared hopeful on Sunday morning that they would be able to quickly unveil their bill.
But the group spent hours fine-tuning and reviewing the text on Sunday, keeping the Senate in session late into the evening. The final sticking point, according to Senate negotiators, involved appropriations.
“We didn’t get the final version until today. And then we went back through it and said, ‘Well, there’s still some issues,’ and so that’s what we were working on all afternoon,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a member of the group, told The Hill.
The Senate deal already overcame two hurdles last week, with the support of 17 GOP senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). The Senate had been using a shell bill, but Schumer started the process on Sunday night of swapping in the bipartisan text.
Members of the bipartisan group are feeling bullish that they’ll be able to pass the bill by the end of the week.
“Start amendment process hopefully on Monday. If not, we want it to be done by Thursday. We want to move on,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
The bill is expected to face a days-long debate on the Senate floor, with Republicans, and some Democrats, eager to try to make changes after largey being on the sidelines of the bipartisan group’s negotiations.
Conservatives immediately fumed over the bill.
“I’ve got real concerns with this bill. A lot of them,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said before launching into a lengthy floor speech.
Lee also bristled at the plan, which has buy-in from Republicans in the group, to quickly pass the bill this week.
“This body has no business passing this legislation in a matter of just a few days,” Lee said, while specifying that he can’t support it. “We at least need a few weeks.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) rebutted criticism from some on the right, including former President Trump, who have argued that the bill makes it easier for Democrats to pass a separate $3.5 trillion spending bill that Republicans are unified against.
“If you don’t think our Democrat friends are going to push that monstrosity with or without this bill, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. They are going to push for that anyway,” Romney said.
Passage of the bipartisan deal in the Senate would be a big win for Biden and the Senate negotiators who placed big bets that they would be able to clinch a deal, even as conservatives panned the agreement and progressives fumed over the months spent negotiating.
“The fight for robust investments in working people should not be taking this long when Democrats control the House, Senate, and White House. Weeks have been wasted as some tried to negotiate with an obstructionist Republican party,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) wrote in a fundraising email on Saturday.
Democrats are pursuing Biden’s sweeping infrastructure and spending proposals along two tracks: the bipartisan proposal, which they will need at least 10 GOP votes to pass in the Senate, and a separate $3.5 trillion package that they will use budget rules to pass without GOP support in the Senate.
Progressives have pushed for the two parts to be consolidated into one bill, allowing them to bypass lengthy negotiations with Republicans. But Biden has been publicly committed to getting bipartisan support for at least part of his proposal, and moderate Senate Democrats, whose votes will be needed for the $3.5 trillion bill, have warned that without the bipartisan legislation the overall package could collapse.
Schumer has vowed that the Senate will vote on both the bipartisan bill and a budget resolution, which greenlights and includes instructions for drafting the $3.5 trillion package, before they leave for a weeks-long summer break.
“Look, I have set two very ambitious goals for the Senate this summer, and we are now on the way to achieving both,” Schumer said on Sunday night.
Democrats appear confident that they have the 50 votes for the budget resolution, even though they face big fights over the content of the spending bill itself later this fall.
But they are expected to lose the first week of the summer break, which was scheduled to begin on Aug. 9, in order to pass the budget resolution.
“I expect that not next week but the following week the budget resolution will be on the floor. It will be passed,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters this week.
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