The approximately $1 trillion proposal (pdf) was cleared for debate before it was even submitted, setting off criticism of how Congress works.
Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which released the legislation, said it would make “historic investments in everything from our roads to our water systems.”
The package includes $4.8 billion for nationally significant freight and highway projects, $3 billion for tribal transportation programs, and $3.4 billion for constructing or repairing border stations. It holds $550 billion in new spending and no new taxes.
The bipartisan effort showed “we can put aside our own political differences for the good of the country,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said Aug. 1 on the Senate floor.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) asserted that the bill would counteract inflation and create more jobs.
“We made a commitment early on we were going to do two things. One, we’re going to focus on core infrastructure so when President [Joe] Biden introduced a $2.65 trillion bill, we said—and called it infrastructure—we said there’s some good stuff in there but let’s pull out the good stuff, the core infrastructure, because a lot had nothing to do with infrastructure. And second, we said we’re not going to do it by raising taxes. We’re not going to hurt the American worker more and make America less competitive, we’re going to do just the opposite. We kept to those two principles,” he said.
Bills require 60 votes in the Senate to overcome possible filibusters and advance legislation. There are currently 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats or nominal independents who regularly caucus with the left.
Democrats control the upper chamber through the tiebreaking vote that Vice President Kamala Harris holds in her role as Senate president.
A bipartisan vote last week on starting debate on the package saw 18 Republicans join with Democrats, easily clearing the filibuster threshold.
Sixteen GOP members voted yes on advancing the legislation on July 30.
In a sign of the strong Republican support for the package, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted with Democrats both times.
“I think we all agree an infrastructure package done correctly is a plus for the country,” McConnell said on Fox Business.
A bipartisan group of moderate senators, including Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Portman, and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) helped craft the legislation. They announced last week that they’d reached an agreement on the bill, but hadn’t released the full text until late on Aug. 1.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the senators, said on CNN on Aug. 1 that she thinks at least 10 Republican senators will support the final version.
“This bill is good for America. Every senator can look at bridges and roads and need for more broadband, waterways in their states, seaports, airports, and see the benefits, the very concrete benefits, no pun intended, of this legislation,” she said. “It’s going to make us more competitive, more productive. It’s going to create good jobs.”
But senators face opposition from some Republicans, as well as the prospect of defeat in the House of Representatives.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she won’t allow a vote on the bill unless Senate Democrats ram through a larger, $3.5 trillion package and present that also to the lower chamber.
“We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi told reporters in July.
“There ain’t going to be no bipartisan bill, unless we have a reconciliation bill.”
Republicans who support infrastructure don’t back the larger package, but they wouldn’t be able to stop it. Democrats can push it through with zero Republican votes in both chambers.
Still, passage isn’t guaranteed.
Manchin and Sinema have regularly blocked some of their party’s more radical proposals since control of the Senate shifted in January.