But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, predicted, “It’s going to be a grind.” The effort got off to a haphazard start on Friday. Shortly after the Senate began the procedural vote, it was stopped. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., indicated Republicans would need to see the full text of the bill before agreeing to go forward.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that the chamber should be able to process the legislation quickly given the bipartisan support. “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 said. Moments later, the vote resumed and the effort to proceed to consideration of the bill passed by a vote of 66-28.
Earlier this week, 17 GOP senators joined all Democrats in voting to start the debate, launching what will be a dayslong process to consider the bill. That support largely held Friday with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky again voting yes to nudge the process along. But whether the number of Republican senators willing to pass a key part of President Joe Biden’s agenda grows or shrinks in the days ahead will determine if the president’s signature issue can make it across the finish line.
Cornyn said that he expects Schumer to allow all senators to have a chance to shape the bill and allow for amendments from members of both political parties. “I’ve been disappointed that Senator Schumer has seen to fit to try to force us to vote on a bill that does not exist in its entirety, but I hope we can now pump the brakes a little bit and take the time and care to evaluate the benefits and the cost of this legislation,” Cornyn said. Schumer planned to introduce the text of the bill later in the day with supporters hoping to complete action before leaving for the August recess. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., released a statement saying they were close to finalizing the legislative text and hope to make it public later in the day.
“When legislative text is finalized that reflects the product of our group, we will make it public together consistent with the bipartisan way we’ve worked for the last four months,” the senators said. The bipartisan plan is big, with $550 billion in new spending over five years beyond the typical highway and public works accounts. It’s being financed from funding sources that may not pass muster with deficit hawks, including repurposing untapped COVID-19 relief aid and relying on projected future economic growth. Among the major investments are $110 billion for roads and bridges, $39 billion for public transit and $66 billion for rail. There’s also $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure as well as billions for airports, ports, broadband and electric vehicle charging stations.
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