The Senate on Tuesday passed the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, with nearly half of the Republican Senators helping President Biden secure a significant win in advancing a key component piece of his economic agenda, despite the measure would have a negative impact on the booming economy as it’s projected to increase the deficit within the next ten years.
Senators voted 69-30 on the bill, with 19 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in voting in favor of the legislation. The yes votes included Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, along with 18 others, many of who previously voted to advance the measure, including — Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH) — the GOP point-man lead negotiator, James Risch (R-ID), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Todd Young (R-IN).
“I was proud to support today’s historic bipartisan infrastructure deal and prove that both sides of the political aisle can still come together around common-sense solutions. By promoting sensible, collaborative legislation, we have shown that the Senate still works as an institution. This is an important achievement for Kentucky and the American people,” McConnell said in a statement following the vote.
The massive bipartisan infrastructure package dubbed the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” includes roughly $550 billion in new federal spending on roads, bridges, passenger and freight rail, the electric grid, broadband Internet access, water infrastructure, transit systems, and charging stations for electric vehicles. The package provides $65 billion to expand high-speed internet access; $110 billion for roads, bridges, and other projects; $25 billion for airports; and increase funding for Amtrak, the most the passenger rail has ever received in over four decades.
Tuesday’s Senate vote capped off months of exhausting negotiation between Biden and his administration with Senators from both sides of the aisle over the infrastructure package scope, funding size, and measures to raise revenue to pay for it without imposing a tax hike or changes to the 2017 Trump tax cuts. In March, Biden initially proposed a $2.23 trillion infrastructure plan that aggressively focused on combatting climate change and would have been funded by enacting massive tax increase on corporations. In June, Biden abruptly ended talks with a group of only GOP senators, after weeks of discussions with the key negotiator, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), officially broken down. Both Biden and Capito were still in deadlock over agreement on defining what constitutes infrastructure, along with a set price tag or how to pay for the infrastructure package.
Biden then turned his attention toward striking a deal with a different group of senators, dubbed the “G1o,” compromised of a bipartisan group of 10 senators led by Portman and Sen, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). After almost two months of intense talks, the bipartisan group announced before August recess that they had finally reached a deal on “the major issues” revolving around transit policy and means for how to pay for the package after agreeing to scrap a provision in giving the Internal Revenue Service’s the ability to collect unpaid taxes that reportedly would have raised over $100 billion in government revenue.
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis released last Thursday revealed that the bill would raise the deficit by $256 billion over the next ten years, contradicting the bipartisan senators’ who negotiated the deal claim that the “pay-fors” would fully offset the overall package costs. After several days of attempts by GOP senators to amend changes to the bill that is over 2,000 pages and the damning revelation of the CBO score, some Republicans shrugged off the deficit pile on based on the true actual cost of the package by breaking ranks within their caucus to expedite the bill’s passage.
Other “pay-for” measures the bipartisan group cite to cover the cost of the plan includes roughly $200 billion repurposed existing COVID-19 relief funds, $49 billion will come from delaying a Trump-era implementation rule on Medicare rebates, and $87 billion from past and future sales of wireless spectrum space. However, the bipartisan senators failed to mention the tightening federal regulation on cryptocurrency, causing the chambers to split amongst both parties. In a last-ditch attempt, senators in favor of crypto attempted to push back on the original language to allow some exemptions to strict tax regulations that had been included in the original bill on cryptocurrency brokers. However, after a compromise between both sides to alter the language failed to secure unanimous consent to make those changes possible.
In a statement just an hour before the vote, Former President Trump issued another dire warning to Republican senators who voted to finalize the bill while taking aim at his newest nemesis — McConnell.
“Nobody will ever understand why Mitch McConnell allowed this non-infrastructure bill to be passed. He has given up all of his leverage for the big whopper of a bill that will follow,” Trump said in an email statement released from his Save America Pac. “I have quietly said for years that Mitch McConnell is the most overrated man in politics—now I don’t have to be quiet anymore. He is working so hard to give Biden a victory; now they’ll go for the big one, including the biggest tax increases in the history of our country.”
Shortly after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) quickly pivoted in calling for a procedural vote to begin the 50-hour debate on the massive $3.5 trillion Democrat spending budget bill. The procedural vote advanced along party lines in the vote of 50-49.
“The two-track strategy is proceeding full steam ahead,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
The infrastructure agenda Biden first proposed were split into “two-track” — the first that just passed, with the second being a $3.5 trillion “human” infrastructure spending budget proposal. Spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the resolution to boost social spending in overhauling the nation’s climate, child care, health care laws, as well as immigration reform by pouring billions in federal funds. Senate Democrats released the blueprint Monday that includes nearly all of President Biden’s American Families Plan bill and provisions that were previously removed during earlier negotiations with bipartisan negotiators in the first infrastructure bill.
Republicans have made it clear Tuesday they’ll make it politically painful for Democrats to pass this second bill, which will not require any GOP support under a process called budget reconciliation.
The bill will now head to the House, where it faces an uncertain future come September when members return from recess. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) vowed not to bring up the bill up for a vote until the Senate also passes the sweeping $3.5 trillion progressive budget spending package. Progressive House Democrats, consisting of 96 members, are also threatening to blow up the bill in the House if the bipartisan infrastructure bill isn’t attached alongside the “human infrastructure” bill.
However, leaders from the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of centrist Democrats, demanded Pelosi bring a swift vote on the bipartisan bill once they return from vacation.
“Now that the Senate has done its job, we reiterate our call for House leadership to follow suit and bring the bipartisan infrastructure legislation to the House floor for a vote as a standalone bill as quickly as possible,” the Blue Dog coalition said in a statement. “The Co-Chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition remains opposed to any effort to unnecessarily delay consideration of these critical infrastructure investments, which will create good-paying jobs, keep American businesses competitive, and grow our nation’s economy.”