Senate approves bipartisan $1T infrastructure plan in win for Biden

Infrastructure bill is ‘strong’, ‘might vote’ for it: Rep. Van Drew

Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., on the border crisis and the $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

The Senate on Tuesday passed a major $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill in a significant show of bipartisan force that marked a big step forward for President Biden's domestic agenda. 

The vote was 69-30, with 19 Republicans – including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – joining all Democrats to approve major investments to the nation's roads, bridges, railways and more. To mark the achievement, Vice President Kamala Harris came to the Capitol to preside over the Senate and announced the successful vote. 

"Big news, folks," Biden tweeted immediately after the vote. "The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal has officially passed the Senate. I hope Congress will send it to my desk as soon as possible so we can continue our work of building back better."

The final passage vote was a culmination of a months-long rocky effort between a group of bipartisan senators and the White House intent on showing the country that Republicans and Democrats can still work together to fix the nation's crumbling infrastructure.

Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, one of the lead negotiators, celebrated the vote as a historic investment in infrastructure that will serve the American people for decades to come. 

"What we're doing here today also demonstrates to the American people that we can get our act together on a bipartisan basis and get something done," Portman said. "We can do big things on a bipartisan basis if we put our minds to it."

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But the rare showing of bipartisanship was short-lived Tuesday, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., quickly pivoted to advancing a massive $3.5 trillion budget bill. Minutes after the infrastructure bill success, Schumer immediately called a procedural vote to begin debate on the Democrats' budget plan, which passed along party lines: 50-49.

This partisan budget proposal will be the vehicle for Democrats to pass liberal priorities such as universal pre-kindergarten, expanded Medicare access, two free years of community college, subsidized child care, legalizing undocumented immigrants and green climate initiatives. 

"The two-track strategy is proceeding full steam ahead," Schumer said Tuesday.

This second spending plan is spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the chairman of the budget committee. Republicans made clear Tuesday they'll make it politically painful for Democrats to pass this second bill, which will not require any GOP support under a process called budget reconciliation. 

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., center, joined from left by, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., speaks to reporters just after a vote to start work on a nearly $1 trillion (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite / AP Newsroom)

"[Democrats] want to begin pushing through a reckless taxing and spending spree that was authored by our self-described socialist colleague Chairman Sanders," McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. He said Republicans are going to force tough votes on a series of politically charged amendments.

"We're going to argue it out right here on the floor at some length," McConnell said. "Every single senator will be going on record over and over and over."

The final passage of the second $3.5 trillion budget blueprint in the Senate in the coming days is critical because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she won't allow a standalone vote on the narrower $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal unless it's paired with the bigger package that liberals have demanded.

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Pelosi has the slimmest of majorities in the House, with 220 Democrats to 212 Republicans and three vacancies.

A group of moderate Democrats has urged Pelosi to hold a vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill while raising alarms about the size of the $3.5 trillion bill that they say could fuel inflation. Meanwhile, progressives, led by the so-called Squad, have dismissed the bipartisan plan and insisted their votes are contingent on the passage of the $3.5 trillion package, which would be funded through new tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations. 

"Just [because] something is ‘bipartisan’ doesn't mean it's good," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted recently. "Look at Wall St. bailouts."

The narrower $1 trillion bill that passed Tuesday is dubbed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and it allocates spending for roads, bridges, rails, waterways, public transit, power systems, airports and broadband internet access. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined the legislation wouldn't be fully paid for – as authors had originally said – and instead would add $256 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

The House is currently in summer recess but is expected to take up infrastructure after members return to Washington in September. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., arrives to the chamber ahead of President Joe Biden speaking to a joint session of Congress, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Melina Mara/The Washington

While the road ahead may be bumpy in the House, lawmakers in the Senate had reason to celebrate after many long nights and weekends at work and plenty of setbacks along the way. 

Schumer congratulated the bipartisan persistence of the senators and Biden and he touted the legislation as the "most robust injection of funds into infrastructure in decades."

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"Despite this long road we have taken, we have finally reached the finish line," Schumer said.

The GOP members who voted in favor of the roughly $1 trillion bill were Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jim Risch of Idaho, Mitt Romney of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

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