What You Need to Know
- The bill still faces hurdles in the House.
- Senate vote after months of fraught negotiations was a crucial first step for both Biden’s economic agenda.
- With infrastructure bill out of the way, Senate Majority Leader Schumer now setting the stage for Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic package.
The Senate passed a $550 billion infrastructure plan that would represent the biggest burst of spending on U.S. public works in decades, sending the legislation to the House where its fate is in the hands of the fractious Democratic caucus.
The bipartisan 69-30 vote Tuesday marked a significant victory for President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. It was a breakthrough that has eluded Congress and presidents for years, despite both parties calling infrastructure a priority and an issue ripe for compromise.
“This legislation will create benefits in communities across the country for decades to come,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Nineteen Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined with all 50 senators who caucus with Democrats to support the bill.
The bipartisan spirit will quickly give way, however, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer immediately pivoted to a partisan budget resolution that will lead to a $3.5 trillion package of social spending and tax increases.
How It Got Passed
Senate passage of the infrastructure bill came after months of negotiations and days of slow-moving Senate debate during which Republicans opposed to the legislation forced Democrats to run out the clock on procedural motions.
“It’s been a long and winding road but we have persisted and now we have arrived,” Schumer said before the vote.
The bill still faces hurdles in the House, which is scheduled to be on break until Sept. 20. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, under pressure from progressives who want their priorities addressed, has said she will not allow a vote on the bipartisan package until the Senate has passed the broader economic plan. Moderates, meanwhile, are clamoring for the House to take up the bill sooner than that.
Five leaders of the House Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats, issued a statement Tuesday calling for Pelosi to swiftly bring the infrastructure bill to a vote.
The Blue Dog co-chairs said they “remain opposed to any effort to unnecessarily delay consideration of these critical infrastructure investments, which will create good-paying jobs, keep American businesses competitive, and grow our nation’s economy.”
Their statement follows a similar letter to Pelosi from several other House moderates calling for a quick vote on the roads and bridges bill.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus, in turn, released a statement saying that a majority of its 96 members won’t vote for the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the budget package.
Pelosi applauded Senate passage of the infrastructure bill on Tuesday and gave no indication she would change her strategy of linking the two economic packages.
What the Senate Vote Means
Still, the Senate vote after months of fraught negotiations was a crucial first step for both Biden’s economic agenda and his broader hopes of showing the world Washington can work again to solve big problems after a particularly divisive era in American politics.
If the infrastructure package ultimately clears both chambers, every state would feel the effects. It includes about $110 billion in new spending for roads and bridges, $73 billion for power grid upgrades, $66 billion for rail and Amtrak, and $65 billion for broadband expansion. It also provides $55 billion for clean water and $39 billion for transit.
Biden had dispatched top aides to negotiate directly with a group of Republican and Democratic senators putting the bill together and engaged personally with meetings and phone calls.