The Senate voted Friday to start debating a White House-backed infrastructure proposal after weeks of negotiations.
On Friday, the upper congressional chamber voted 66-28 to officially begin the debate. Sixteen Republicans joined all Democrats to begin the debate, bypassing the 60 votes needed to overcome a potential filibuster.
The measure, which some have described as bipartisan, includes about $550 billion in new spending as well as $450 billion that was previously approved. The bill would, in part, fund building electric vehicle charging stations and getting rid of lead water pipes around the United States.
Democrats aim to pass a separate $3.5 trillion bill that includes climate and social spending measures. Republicans have signaled that they would use the filibuster to block the measure in the 50-50 Senate, leading some Democrats to suggest they would use the budget reconciliation tactic to pass the measure with no Republican votes.
“Given the bipartisan nature of the bill, the Senate should be able to process this legislation rather quickly,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday ahead of the vote. “We may need the weekend, we may vote on several amendments, but with the cooperation of our Republican colleagues I believe we can finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a matter of days.”
Schumer on Friday added that he plans to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Democratic climate and social spending bill before senators take their summer break, which was supposed to start in the second week of August.
In a sign of the complexity of both the bill and the politics surrounding it, the vote was suspended for more than 45 minutes as lawmakers questioned how it would affect broadband internet access. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said lawmakers had been confused by different versions of the bill.
Senators were scheduled to work through the weekend on the sweeping plan, which would dramatically increase the nation’s spending on roads, bridges, transit, and airports. Supporters predicted it would ultimately pass the Senate and House, eventually reaching President Biden’s desk for him to sign it into law.
“When you have Chuck Schumer and you have Mitch McConnell voting for the same thing in a bill this large, you have a good thing,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key swing vote, said on Friday, referring to the Senate GOP leader who voted to advance the bill.
However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told media outlets over the past weekend that if the $3.5 trillion bill isn’t passed, the $1 trillion infrastructure measure wouldn’t make it to the floor for a vote.
This week, former President Donald Trump warned Republican senators to stay away from the infrastructure bill, arguing that Democrats aren’t operating in good faith.
“Once they pass this bill out of the Senate, it will sit in the House until they get steamrolled by the biggest government expansion in a generation,” Trump said in a statement Friday. “Tax increases on everyone, government run health care, more government run schools, amnesty for illegal immigrants, MASKS, and many more terrible socialist programs.”
Seemingly making reference to Pelosi’s weekend comments, the former commander-in-chief added: “Nancy Pelosi has said NO INFRASTRUCTURE until they get everything else.”
Reuters contributed to this report.