WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — After weeks of fits, starts and delays, the Senate gave final approval to the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan, with a coalition of Democrats and Republicans lifting the first phase of President Joe Biden’s rebuilding agenda to passage.
The final Senate vote came down to 69 and 30 after months of negotiations. 19 Republican Senators voted with the Democrats to advance the legislation including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Through today’s actions, we will be more competitive on the global stage and primed for broad-based economic growth,” McConnell said on his yes vote.
The bill now goes to the House.
It was a robust tally of lawmakers eager to tap the billions in new spending for their states and to show voters back home they can deliver.
“There’s been detours and everything else, but this will do a whole lot of good for America,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Now the Senate will immediately launch votes on Biden’s next package — the $3.5 trillion plan that is a more strictly Democratic undertaking — beginning a debate that will extend into fall.
For now, on the often-elusive political center is holding steady on the bipartisan plan, a rare partnership with Biden’s White House.
While liberal lawmakers said the package doesn’t go far enough as a down-payment on Biden’s priorities and conservatives said it is too costly and should be more fully paid for, the coalition of centrist senators was able to hold. Even broadsides from former President Donald Trump could not bring the bill down.
“This infrastructure bill is not the perfect bill,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, one of the negotiators. She said the senators kept at it, believing, “It’s better to get some of what our constituents want rather than none of it.”
Together, a sizable number of business, farm and labor groups back the package, which proposes nearly $550 billion in new spending on what are typically mainstays of federal spending — roads, bridges, broadband internet, water pipes and other public works systems that cities and states often cannot afford on their own.
“This has been a different sort of process,” said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the lead Republican negotiator of the group of 10 senators who drafted the package.
Portman, a White House budget director for George W. Bush, said the investments being made have been talked about for years, yet never seem to get done.
He said, “We’ll be getting it right for the American people.”
The top Democratic negotiator, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, said she was trying to follow the example of fellow Arizonan John McCain to “reach bipartisan agreements that try to bring the country together.”
Still, not all senators are on board. Despite the momentum, action ground to a halt over the weekend when Sen. Bill Hagerty, a Tennessee Republican allied with Trump, refused to speed up the process.
Other Republican senators objected to the size, scope and financing of the package, particularly concerned after the Congressional Budget Office said it would add $256 billion to deficits over the decade.
Two Republicans, Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Todd Young of Indiana, had been part of initial negotiations shaping the package but ultimately announced they could not support it.
Rather than pressure lawmakers, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has stayed behind the scenes for much of the bipartisan work. He has cast his own votes repeatedly to allow the bill to progress, calling it a compromise.
Trump called Hagerty, who had been his ambassador to Japan, on Sunday and the senator argued for taking more time for debate and amendments, in part because he wants to slow the march toward Biden’s second phase, the $3.5 trillion bill that Republicans fully oppose.
The outline for the bigger $3.5 trillion package is on deck next in the Senate — a more liberal undertaking of child care, elder care and other programs that is expected to draw only Democratic support. Senators are expected Tuesday to launch a lengthy session to consider amendments to the blueprint, the start of a months-long debate on the package.
Unlike Biden’s bigger $3.5 trillion package, which would be paid for by higher tax rates for corporations and the wealthy, the bipartisan package is to be funded by repurposing other money, and with other spending cuts and revenue streams. The bill’s backers argue that the budget office’s analysis was unable to take into account certain revenue streams — including from future economic growth.
Senators have spent the past week processing nearly two dozen amendments to the 2,700-page package, but so far none has substantially changed its framework.
One remaining issue, over tax compliance for cryptocurrency brokers, appeared close to being resolved after senators announced they had worked with the Treasury Department to clarify the intent.
But an effort to quickly adopt the cryptocurrency compromise was derailed by senators who wanted their own amendments, including one to add $50 billion for shipbuilding and other defense infrastructure. It’s unclear if any further amendments will be adopted.
The House is expected to consider both Biden infrastructure packages when it returns from recess in September.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the two bills will be considered together, but on Monday a bipartisan group of centrist lawmakers urged her to bring their smaller plan forward quickly, raising concerns about the bigger bill, in a sign of the complicated politics ahead.
“This once-in-a-century investment deserves its own consideration,” wrote Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., Jared Golden, D-Maine, and others in a letter obtained by The Associated Press. “We cannot afford unnecessary delays.”