$1 trillion infrastructure bill heads for Senate debate

Author : kanwerlop
Publish Date : 2021-08-02


$1 trillion infrastructure bill heads for Senate debate

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sought to speed up consideration of a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package Monday, promising that Democrats would work with Republicans to put together amendments.

Formally the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the proposal clocked in at some 2,700 pages late Sunday after a hurry-up-and-wait rare weekend session. The final product was not intended to stray from the broad outline a bipartisan group of senators had negotiated for weeks with the White House. Schumer has said a final vote could be held “in a matter of days.”

“Let’s start voting on amendments,” Schumer said as the Senate opened for business on Monday. “The longer it takes to finish the bill, the longer we will be here.”
A key part of President Joe 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 — one of the most substantial expenditures on the nation’s roads, bridges, waterworks, broadband and the electric grid in years

The Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, will play a key role in the bill’s final outcome. So far, he has agreed to allow debate to proceed but has not signaled how he will ultimately vote. He described the bill Monday as a “good and important jumping off point” for a robust, bipartisan amendment process. He also warned Democrats against setting “any artificial timetable.”

“Infrastructure is exactly the kind of subject that Congress should be able to address across the aisle,” McConnell said.

Senators and staff labored behind the scenes for days to write the massive bill. It was supposed to be ready Friday, but by Sunday, even more glitches were caught and changes made.

Late Sunday, most of the 10 senators involved in the bipartisan effort rose on the Senate floor to mark the moment.

“We know that this has been a long and sometimes difficult process, but we are proud this evening to announce this legislation,” said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., a lead negotiator. The bill showed “we can put aside our own political differences for the good of the country,” she said.

— $39 billion for public transit. The money would be used to modernize bus and subway fleets and bring new service to communities. That’s about $10 billion less than senators negotiating the agreement had originally designated.

— $66 billion for passenger and freight rail. The money would be used to reduce Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, improve Amtrak’s 457-mile-long Northeast Corridor as well as other routes and make safety improvements to rail grade crossings.

— $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations, which the administration says is critical to accelerating the use of electric vehicles to curb climate change.

— $5 billion for the purchase of electric school buses and hybrids, reducing reliance on school buses that run on diesel fuel.

— $17 billion for ports and $25 billion for airports to reduce congestion and address maintenance backlogs.

— $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure, including funding to replace all of the nation’s service lines using lead pipe.

— $65 billion to expand broadband access, a particular problem for rural areas and tribal communities. Most of the money would be made available through grants to states.

— $21 billion for cleaning up superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap obsolete gas wells.

— $73 billion for modernizing the nation’s electric grid and expanding the use of renewable energy.

And here’s a breakdown of pay-fors in a Republican summary of the plan:

— Tapping about $205 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief aid. Congress has provided about $4.7 trillion in emergency assistance in response to the pandemic.

— Drawing on about $53 billion in unemployment insurance aid that the federal government was providing to supplement state unemployment insurance. Dozens of states are declining to take the federal supplement.
Drawing on about $49 billion by further delaying a Medicare rule giving beneficiaries rebates that now go to insurers and middlemen called pharmacy benefit managers. The trade association for drug manufacturers argued that the rule would help reduce patients’ out-of-pocket costs, but the Congressional Budget Office had projected that it would increase taxpayer costs by $177 billion over 10 years.

— Raising an estimated $87 billion in spectrum auctions for 5G services.

— Restarting a tax on chemical manufacturers that had expired in 1995, raising about $13 billion. The money had been used to help fund the cleanup of Superfund sites. Also, selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would add about $6 billion.

— Strengthening tax enforcement when it comes to crypto currencies, raising about $28 billion.

— Relying on projected economic growth from the investments to bring in about $56 billion.
After weeks of stop-and-go negotiations, the rare bipartisan showing on a 67-32 vote to start formal Senate consideration showed the high interest among senators in the infrastructure package. But it’s unclear if enough Republicans will eventually join Democrats to support final passage.

Senate rules require 60 votes in the evenly split 50-50 chamber to proceed for consideration and ultimately pass this bill, meaning support from both parties.

The outcome 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
Lead GOP negotiator Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio announced the bipartisan group’s agreement on the $1 trillion package earlier Wednesday at the Capitol, flanked by four other Republican senators who had been in talks with Democrats and the White House.

After voting, Portman said the outcome showed that bipartisanship in Washington can work and he believed GOP support would only grow. “That’s pretty darn good for a start,” he said.

That group had labored with the White House to salvage the deal, a first part of Biden’s big infrastructure agenda. Swelling to more than 700 pages, the bill includes $550 billion in new spending for public works projects.

In all, 17 Republican senators joined the Democrats in voting to launch the debate, but most remained skeptical. The GOP senators were given a thick binder of briefing materials during a private lunch, but they asked many questions and wanted more details.

According to a 57-page GOP summary obtained by The Associated Press, the five-year spending package would be paid for by tapping $205 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief aid and $53 billion in unemployment insurance aid some states have halted. It also relies on economic growth to bring in $56 billion, and other measures.



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