Aug 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate passes $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package

Biden with bipartisan senators
President Biden with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and other bipartisan senators. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Senate voted 69-30 on Tuesday to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, handing a major victory to President Biden and a group of senators that spent months negotiating on the agreement.

Why it matters: The monster bill would deliver hundreds of billions of dollars for roads, bridges, waterways and other "hard infrastructure" items. It is widely seen as a victory for both parties and the reputation of the Senate, especially given the current level of polarization in Congress.

  • Despite the bill's success in the Senate, it faces an uphill battle in the House, where members were largely left out of the negotiating process.
  • But the large margin of votes for the bill — 19 Senate Republicans voted in favor, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — could make it harder for House progressives to dismiss outright.

What they're saying: Vice President Kamala Harris, who presided over the vote in the Senate, told reporters, "It’s a good day. It’s a very good day. Independents, Democrats, Republicans coming together, understanding that we can work together in the best interest of all of the American people."

One big thing to watch: The GOP split over the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

  • Several Republicans — including Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) — voted no, citing the Congressional Budget Office score, which stated the bill would add $256 billion to projected deficits.
  • Others, like Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and outside conservative groups like Heritage Action, are criticizing the bipartisan bill as paving the way for Democrats' $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of Senate GOP leadership, cited the CBO score and lack of pay-fors for his "no" vote. Asked why he thinks McConnell voted for it, Cornyn told Axios: "My guess is it was important to him to show that the Senate can actually function on a bipartisan basis."

Details: The bill will cost $1.2 trillion over eight years, and offers more than $550 billion in new spending, including ...

  • $110 billion in new funds for roads, bridges, and major projects. $40 billion is new funding for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation and $17.5 billion is for major projects.
  • $73 billion for the country's electric grid and power structures.
  • $66 billion for rail services.
  • $65 billion for broadband.
  • $55 billion for water infrastructure.
  • $21 billion in environmental remediation.
  • $47 billion for flooding and coastal resiliency.
  • $39 billion to modernize transit. This is the largest federal investment in public transit in history, according to the White House.
  • $25 billion for airports.
  • $17 billion in port infrastructure.
  • $11 billion in transportation safety programs.
  • $7.5 billion for electric vehicles and EV charging; $2.5 billion in zero-emission buses, $2.5 billion in low-emission buses, and $2.5 billion for ferries.
  • The bill will include language regarding enforcement of unemployment insurance fraud.
  • The measure will add $256 billion in projected deficits over eight years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

What's next: The Senate will now immediately move to consider Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which contains many of the remaining social-spending and climate priorities in Biden's agenda.

  • The process will face its own series of amendments and procedural hurdles, but it is expected to pass as early as the end of this week.
  • Then comes the hard part. Once the budget resolution passes, Senate Democrats will have to begin negotiating sections of the reconciliation bill in earnest — without losing a single Democratic vote.
  • This will begin during August recess and continue through the fall.
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