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Senate Passes $1 Trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

The west side of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., August 5, 2021 (Brent Buterbaugh/National Review)

The Senate passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill Tuesday, bringing one piece of the Democrats’ two-track legislative agenda near completion.

The Senate voted 69–30 to pass the legislation, with 19 Republicans voting in favor. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) voted for the bill, while Senate GOP whip John Thune of South Dakota voted against. Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas), who initially voted to advance the bill, voted against final passage.

“This is what it looks like when elected leaders take a step toward healing our country’s divisions rather than feeding those very divisions,” Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), one of the lead negotiators of the legislation, said prior to the bill’s passage.

“I have always been supportive of infrastructure investment and wish we had passed this years ago,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said in a statement after the bill was approved. “This bill provides American infrastructure with a much-needed facelift.”

The bill calls for $550 billion in new spending over the next five years on railways and public transit, rebuilding the electric power grid, and expanding broadband Internet access. Democrats have paired it with a massive spending bill which they plan to pass through the budget reconciliation process absent any Republican support.

While proponents of the bipartisan infrastructure bill have long said it would be fully paid for, it is expected to add $256 billion to the deficit, the Congressional Budget Office announced Thursday.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will not take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill until Senate Democrats pass their partisan spending bill as well. That bill, addressing education, child care, paid family and medical leave, and climate change, has been valued at a gargantuan $3.5 trillion.

Speaking on the Senate floor ahead of the vote, Schumer touted the unifying example set by the bipartisan infrastructure bill’s passage.

“When the Senate is run with an open hand rather than a closed fist, senators can accomplish big things . . . so despite this long road we’ve taken, we have finally reached the finish line,” he said.

He then pivoted away from the virtues of bipartisanship to confirm that the body will move quickly to pass the Democrats’ much larger, partisan spending package.

“After we pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill this morning, senators should expect to vote to proceed to the budget resolution. And we will begin the process for debating amendments shortly thereafter,” he said. “Democrats are prepared to move quickly and decisively.”

After the evenly split Senate voted 66–28 Friday to advance the bipartisan infrastructure legislation in a procedural motion, with 16 Republicans agreeing to proceed, the chamber floor opened up to begin the amendment process.

The bipartisan coalition of 22 senators who led negotiations, including lead negotiators Republican Senator Rob Portman and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, spent the last days ironing out the final language and settling compromises.

Democratic lawmakers had been eager to pass the deal before Congress adjourns for August recess supposed to begin at the end of next week.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer rushed to get the bill onto the Senate voting schedule, despite Republican apprehensions and requests for more time. He said Friday that he was confident both chambers would meet the deadline to approve the infrastructure plan, promising to work through the weekend if necessary.

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