WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has voted to begin work on a nearly $1 trillion national infrastructure plan, acting with sudden speed after weeks of fits and starts once the White House and a bipartisan group of senators agreed on major provisions of the package that’s key to President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Biden welcomed the accord as one that would show America can “do big things.” It includes the most significant long-term investments in nearly a century, he said, on par with building the transcontinental railroad or the Interstate highway system.
“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function,” Biden said ahead of the vote Wednesday night. “We will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”
After weeks of stop-and-go negotiations, the rare bipartisan showing on a 67-32 vote to start formal Senate consideration showed the high interest among senators in the infrastructure package. But it’s unclear if enough Republicans will eventually join Democrats to support final passage.
Senate rules require 60 votes in the evenly split 50-50 chamber to proceed for consideration and ultimately pass this bill, meaning support from both parties.
The outcome will set the stage for the next debate over Biden’s much more ambitious $3.5 trillion spending package, a strictly partisan pursuit of far-reaching programs and services including child care, tax breaks and health care that touch almost every corner of American life. Republicans strongly oppose that bill, which would require a simple majority, and may try to stop both.
Lead GOP negotiator Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio announced the bipartisan group’s agreement on the $1 trillion package earlier Wednesday at the Capitol, flanked by four other Republican senators who had been in talks with Democrats and the White House.
After voting, Portman said the outcome showed that bipartisanship in Washington can work and he believed GOP support would only grow. “That’s pretty darn good for a start,” he said.
That group had labored with the White House to salvage the deal, a first part of Biden’s big infrastructure agenda. Swelling to more than 700 pages, the bill includes $550 billion in new spending for public works projects.
In all, 17 Republican senators joined the Democrats in voting to launch the debate, but most remained skeptical. The GOP senators were given a thick binder of briefing materials during a private lunch, but they asked many questions and wanted more details.
According to a 57-page GOP summary obtained by The Associated Press, the five-year spending package would be paid for by tapping $205 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief aid and $53 billion in unemployment insurance aid some states have halted. It also relies on economic growth to bring in $56 billion, and other measures.
Senator Manchin released the following statement about the bill:
Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and 20 other bipartisan Senators released the following statement on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement.
“We are proud to announce we have reached a bipartisan agreement on our proposal to make the strongest investment in America’s critical infrastructure in a generation. Our plan will create good-paying jobs in communities across our country without raising taxes. Reaching this agreement was no easy task—but our constituents expect us to put in the hard work and show that two parties can still work together to address the needs of the American people. We appreciate our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and the administration, working with us to get this done and we look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support among our Senate colleagues for this historic legislation.”
Senator Manchin was joined by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Mark Warner (D-VA).
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today released the below statement on her intention to support proceeding to consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure legislation:
“As I said when I began negotiations with President Biden, I have been and continue to be committed to improving our nation’s infrastructure, which will boost economic growth and create jobs. As the top Republican on the Senate EPW Committee, I have worked alongside Chairman Carper to craft a highway bill that passed our committee unanimously, as well as a water bill that also passed our committee unanimously and the Senate 89-2. These bills include significant wins for West Virginia and our nation. These bills were also developed with input from our fellow senators and incorporated policy and funding priorities from both sides of the aisle.
“I am glad to see the bipartisan group’s infrastructure legislation focuses on the core elements of infrastructure. Just as important, the bipartisan group’s package is built around our two bipartisan and unanimously committee-passed bills. The inclusion of our bills in the package means West Virginia will receive funding for programs and areas I have long-supported like roads, bridges, water and wastewater projects, construction of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS), and more. As a member of the Commerce Committee, I am also glad to see this package include significant funding to help fix the digital divide, something that has been a top priority for me since day one. After reviewing some of the legislative text of the bipartisan infrastructure package and ensuring West Virginia’s and the nation’s core infrastructure needs will be addressed, I plan to support the procedural vote to move this package forward.”