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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.

Go deeper

Nov 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: GOP donors “furious”

Sen. Rick Scott addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 — the day the House passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Photo: Bridget Bennett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told his colleagues this week top party donors were "furious" with the number of Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, two sources familiar with his remarks tell Axios' Alayna Treene.

Why it matters: Scott chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which relies on donors to help it elect candidates — and re-elect incumbents. The criticism highlighted how toxic the vote has become for the 19 Senate and 13 House Republicans who joined with Democrats to pass it.

Democrats draw up plan B for paid leave after Manchin veto

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are privately reaching out to Republicans to cinch a separate, bipartisan deal for paid family leave after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) crushed hopes of including it in President Biden's $1.75 trillion social spending plan.

Why it matters: The end-around is part of a broader effort to provide paid time off from work to care for others, regardless of the method. Some Republicans sound amenable, depending on the timing.

Nov 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democratic senators grill Powell on plan for inflation

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell walks through the Hart Senate Office Building last month. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is facing questions in private meetings with Democratic senators this week about how he plans to counter soaring inflation, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: The Democrats' intense focus on inflation reveals their concern rising prices are becoming a political liability. It also shows they're looking to the next Federal Reserve chair to devise a strategy to defeat it. President Biden promised to announce his choice as early as Friday.