WASHINGTON (AP) – After much delay, senators unveiled a nearly $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, concluding days of painstaking work on the inch bill and launching what is sure to be a long debate on President Joe Biden’s top priority.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was about 2,700 pages long, and senators may start amending it soon. Despite the haste and expectation in a rare weekend session, emotions boiled over once the bill was produced on Sunday night. The end product was not intended to deviate from the broad lines that senators had negotiated for weeks with the White House.
“We haven’t made a big bipartisan bill of this nature for a long time,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. He said a final vote could take place “in a few days”.
A key part of Biden’s agenda, the bipartisan bill is the first phase of the president’s infrastructure plan. It calls for $ 550 billion in new spending over five years above projected federal levels, which could be one of the nation’s biggest spending on roads, bridges, water systems, broadband and the power grid for years.
Senators and staff worked behind the scenes for days drafting the massive bill. It was supposed to be ready on Friday, but on Sunday even more issues were detected and changes were made. To spur the work, Schumer kept senators in session over the weekend, encouraging writers to complete the work.
Late Sunday evening, most of the 10 senators involved in the bipartisan effort rose to the Senate floor to mark the moment.
“We know it has been a long and sometimes difficult process, but we are proud to announce this legislation tonight,” said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Chief negotiator. The bill showed that “we can put aside our own political differences for the good of the country,” she said.
Republican negotiator Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said the end product would be “great for the American people.”
Over the long weekend of starts and stops, Schumer repeatedly warned that he was prepared to keep lawmakers in Washington for as long as it takes to complete votes on the bipartisan infrastructure plan as well. than on a budgetary plan that would allow the Senate to begin work. later this year on a huge social, health and environmental bill of $ 3.5 trillion.
Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, predicted, “It’s going to be a chore.”
Among the major new investments, the bipartisan package is expected to provide $ 110 billion for roads and bridges, $ 39 billion for public transit and $ 66 billion for rail. There should also be $ 55 billion for water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as billions for airports, ports, high-speed internet and electric vehicle charging stations.
The spending is widely popular among lawmakers, bringing in long-delayed capital for big-ticket items that states and states can rarely afford on their own.
Paying for the package has been a challenge after senators rejected ideas to raise revenue from a new gasoline tax or other streams. Instead, it is funded by funding sources that may not succeed with deficit hawks, including the reallocation of some $ 205 billion in untapped COVID-19 relief aid, as well as aid to the unemployment which has been denied by some states and relied on expected future economic growth.
“I have real concerns with this bill,” said Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Biparty support from Republican and Democratic senators moved the process forward, and Schumer wanted the vote to end before the senators left for the August recess.
Last week, 17 GOP senators joined all Democrats to vote to start work on the bipartisan bill. That support has largely continued, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Voting yes in another procedural vote to move the process forward in the 50-50 Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome obstruction and anticipated legislation.
Whether the number of Republican senators willing to pass the bill increases or decreases in the coming days will determine whether the problem with the president’s signature can cross the finish line.
Cornyn said he expects Schumer to allow all senators the opportunity to shape the bipartisan bill and allow amendments from members of both parties.
“I hope we can now put the brakes on a bit and take the time and care to assess the benefits and costs of this legislation,” said Cornyn.
The bipartisan bill still faces a tough road in the House, where progressive lawmakers want a more robust package but may have to settle for it to keep Biden’s infrastructure plans on track.
The outcome of the bipartisan effort will set the stage for the next debate on Biden’s much more ambitious $ 3.5 trillion package, a strictly partisan pursuit of high-profile programs and services, including child care, the tax breaks and health care that affect almost every corner of America’s life. Republicans strongly oppose this bill, which would require a simple majority to pass. Final votes on this measure are not expected until the fall.
Associated Press editors Mary Clare Jalonick and Brian Slodysko contributed to this report.
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