Senators Look to Wrap Up Infrastructure08/01 09:34
Unable to produce the final text of a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure
bill, the Senate wrapped up a rare Saturday session making little visible
progress on the legislative package, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
vowed the work would get done.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unable to produce the final text of a nearly $1 trillion
infrastructure bill, the Senate wrapped up a rare Saturday session making
little visible progress on the legislative package, but Senate Majority Leader
Chuck Schumer vowed the work would get done.
The Senate planned to reconvene Sunday. Senators and staff have been
laboring behind the scenes for days to write what is certain to be a massive
piece of legislation. An early draft swelled beyond 2,500 pages. To prod the
work along, Schumer kept senators in a weekend session, encouraging the authors
of a bipartisan infrastructure plan to finish drafting the bill so that
senators can begin offering amendments.
Several senators had predicted that the text of the bill would be ready for
review late Friday or early Saturday, but it was not done when the Senate
opened for business late in the morning. Nor was it ready to be filed when
Schumer closed the floor 11 hours later.
"They need a little more time," Schumer said in the evening. "I'm prepared
to give it to them."
Schumer, D-N.Y., said he understood that completing the writing of such a
large bill is a difficult project, but he warned that he was prepared to keep
lawmakers in Washington for as long as it took to complete votes on both the
bipartisan infrastructure plan and a budget blueprint that would allow the
Senate to begin work later this year on a massive, $3.5 trillion social, health
and environmental bill.
"The longer it takes to finish, the longer we will be here, but we're going
to get the job done," he said.
The bipartisan plan -- a key part of President Joe Biden's agenda -- calls
for $550 billion in new spending over five years above projected federal
levels. A draft bill circulating Capitol Hill indicated it could have more than
2,500 pages when introduced. It's being financed from funding sources that
might 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 internet and electric vehicle charging stations.
A bipartisan group of senators helped it clear one more hurdle Friday and
braced to see if support could hold during the next few days of debate and
efforts to amend it.
Schumer wants the voting to be wrapped up before senators break for their
August recess. He said that once the legislative text is finalized, he'll
review it and offer it up as a substitute to the shell bill currently before
the chamber. Then, senators can begin voting on amendments.
"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 Friday night.
But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, predicted, "It's going to be a grind."
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 during another procedural vote, with Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., again voting yes to nudge the process along.
Whether the number of Republican senators willing to pass the bill grows or
shrinks in the days ahead will determine if the president's signature issue can
make it across the finish line.
Cornyn said he expects Schumer to allow all senators to have a chance to
shape the bill and allow for amendments from members of both parties.
"I've been disappointed that Sen. Schumer has seen 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.
Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., released a statement
on Friday saying they were close to finalizing the legislative text and hoped
to make it public later in the day. But Friday came and went without final
"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.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said Saturday that negotiators were finalizing the
last few pieces, but he had no predictions when it would be ready for senators
to have amendments and debate. He said some lawmakers from both sides of the
political aisle have panned the bill in some ways, but in the end, it would
provide the kind of investment that lawmakers have talked about for years but
have been unable to follow through on.
"There's been some of the sense of, well, infrastructure, that shouldn't be
hard to do. If it wasn't hard to do, why has it taken 30 years to get to this
moment?" Warner said.
The outcome with the bipartisan effort 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.