Senate votes to end debate on $1T infrastructure bill
The Senate on Sunday night voted to end debate on a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, putting it on a glide path, albeit a lengthy one, to passing this week.
Senators voted 68-29 to end debate on the bill, which required 60 votes. Eighteen GOP senators joined with all Democrats to help advance the legislation.
Even though the legislation — crafted by a bipartisan group of senators and the White House — is all but guaranteed to pass the Senate and head to the House, opponents could still use the chamber’s rules to run the clock for an additional 30 hours before the Senate can take a final vote. That would delay passage of the bill, absent an agreement, until early Tuesday morning.
The Senate’s snail-like pace comes as senators hit a stalemate while trying to reach an agreement to set up votes on potential changes to the legislation in exchange for senators agreeing to speed things up.
“Democrats are ready and willing to vote on additional amendments to the bill before moving to final passage. Once again that will require the cooperation of our Republican colleagues. I hope they will cooperate so we can move more quickly. Otherwise we’ll proceed by the book and finish the bill,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said from the Senate floor.
Senators had hoped to finish the bipartisan bill last week in a marathon session that would have lasted late into Thursday night or early Friday morning and involved voting on anywhere between 16 and 25 amendments.
But they weren’t able to get buy-in from Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), and the all-night slog would have pushed up against an early-morning flight that dozens of senators were taking to Wyoming for the late Sen. Mike Enzi’s (R-Wyo.) funeral.
Hagerty warned over the weekend that he wouldn’t sign off on allowing the bipartisan bill to be sped up even if it meant some of his GOP colleagues would get votes on their proposed amendments.
Senators view the two negotiations — getting an agreement to speed up the bill and getting a deal to allow for votes on potential changes — as linked, and other GOP senators had signaled that they were fine with the trade-off.
“What they’re asking for is an expedited process that has nothing to do with the amendments. I’m not against any of the amendments, not opposed to any of them. I’m not the one holding any of the amendments up. They’re free to start under normal order,” Hagerty told reporters.
Hagerty took to the floor on Sunday to try to set up amendment votes. Unlike the deal that was circulated by leadership last week, his offer wouldn’t speed up passage of the bill. Hagerty’s move was blocked on Sunday by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), who led the negotiations on the bill for Democrats.
Sinema noted that there were “senators on both sides of the aisle who object to unanimous consent on one or more of the amendments listed in his proposed list.”
“We do not have unanimous consent on either a time agreement or on moving forward on amendments,” she said.
Hagerty, who has bristled at the idea that he’s negatively impacting the ability to get amendment votes, argued the roadblock to his request signaled that Democrats “can’t take yes for an answer” and are trying to use the prospect of amendments as leverage to “rush” the bill.
Negotiators were still working behind the scenes on Sunday to try to work out final agreements in the event of a breakthrough, including talks to try to resolve a fight over cryptocurrency that has split Republicans and pitted the White House against Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Setting up votes on any additional amendments requires buy-in from all 100 senators.
Despite the drama, senators still expect the bipartisan bill to pass this week even if they aren’t able to get a deal that allows senators to get additional amendment votes.
“I think the vote margin could increase if people got votes on amendments … but probably not,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, when asked if he thought the margin of support changed if they couldn’t work out an amendment deal.
Eighteen Republican senators helped get the bill over a key hurdle on Saturday. GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who supports the deal, is in quarantine after testing positive with a breakthrough COVID-19 case.
Though the same number voted to advance the bill on Sunday night, the group was scrambled.
Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who previously voted to support the bill, voted against it on Sunday. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who voted no on Saturday, voted yes on Sunday.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who voted yes on Saturday, was absent on Sunday, while Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who supports the deal, missed Saturday’s vote but was present to vote on Sunday.
The bill faces a less certain fate in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has vowed that she won’t bring up the bipartisan deal until the Senate votes on a massive $3.5 trillion spending package not expected to come to the floor until this fall.
But Pelosi’s thin majority gives lawmakers on both sides of her caucus leverage to elbow for competing priorities.
House moderates are ramping up pressure for her to bring up the bipartisan bill as soon as it passes the Senate and noting that they have concerns about the larger $3.5 trillion package.
That sparked backlash from high-profile progressives.
“If mods want to blow up the infra deal, that’s on them,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted. “Just bc something is ‘bipartisan’ doesn’t mean it’s good. Look at Wall St bailouts.”
If mods want to blow up the infra deal, that’s on them.
I know this is tough for some to understand, but the US is more than a handful of suburbs- communities outside them aren’t disposable.
And just bc something is “bipartisan” doesn’t mean it’s good. Look at Wall St bailouts. https://t.co/BDTxTEcwG6
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 8, 2021