The Senate voted to break a filibuster Saturday and advance a massive $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package after months of furious next negotiations, clearing a major hurdle for President Joe Biden’s agenda even as it will soon face an uncertain future in the House.
Eighteen GOP senators joined Democrats to shut down debate on the bill Saturday afternoon. Senators are confident the bill will pass, but it’s now just a matter of how long that takes with the exact timing of a final vote still unclear. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on the floor Saturday that the Senate would reconvene Sunday at noon to resume consideration of the bill.
“We’ve been working hard all day on amendments and hopefully we can come to some agreement tomorrow but the time is burning as we go forward,” Schumer said in floor remarks on Saturday.
Also Saturday, freshman Sen. Bill Hagerty’s spokesperson Judd Deere made clear that the Tennessee Republican would not consent to speed up passage of the bill. An agreement to tee up additional amendment votes or speed up final passage requires all 100 senators to sign off. Based on this, final passage of the bipartisan bill doesn’t look likely until Monday night or Tuesday morning — unless there’s an agreement.
“He will not consent to accelerate this package that adds to the deficit. The Senator is not objecting to votes on amendments, but the body should follow regular order as it works to complete this legislation,” Deere said.
Hagerty also argued the bipartisan bill is “tied” to Democrats’ larger social, environmental infrastructure package.
“There’s absolutely no reason for rushing this process,” he said.
After 12 hours of marathon negotiations to try to hammer out an agreement on final amendment votes that stretched late into Thursday evening, Schumer announced that the Senate would move to a vote to shut down debate on the bill on Saturday.
“We very much want to finish this important bill,” Schumer said in floor remarks as he made the announcement.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a lead Democratic negotiator of the bill, said in remarks late Thursday that she looks forward to the chamber advancing what will be a “historic piece of legislation both in its bipartisan nature and in the impact it will have on our country.”
The massive bipartisan infrastructure package, called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is the culmination of drawn-out and painstaking negotiations between a bipartisan group of senators and the Biden administration and will allow both parties to claim a win after extensive work across the aisle.
It features $550 billion in new federal spending over five years. The measure invests $110 billion in funding toward roads, bridges and major projects, $66 billion in passenger and freight rail, $65 billion to rebuild the electric grid, $65 billion to expand broadband Internet access, and $39 billion to modernize and expand transit systems. Among many other priorities, the bill also includes $55 billion for water infrastructure, $15 billion of which will be directed toward replacing lead pipes.
Senators held votes on 22 amendments throughout the week after working the previous weekend to finalize the legislative text.
But Senate leaders failed to reach an agreement late Thursday night on a series of final amendment votes that they hoped would help speed up final passage of the bill as several lawmakers flexed their power to draw out the process.
Hagerty had said Thursday that he objected to quick passage of the infrastructure bill after the Congressional Budget Office score estimated that the package will add $256 billion to projected deficits over the next decade.
“Despite this news, I was asked to consent to expedite the process and pass it. I could not, in good conscience, allow that to happen at this hour — especially when the objective of the majority is to hurry up and pass this bill so that they can move quickly to their $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend spree designed to implement the Green New Deal and increase Americans’ dependence on the government so I objected,” Hagerty said in a statement at the time.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the Senate Republican Whip, suggested to reporters late Thursday night that the failure to reach any agreement on amendments was ultimately a “good outcome, and that is: people kind of go to their corners, towel off and then we’ll come back and talk about it on Saturday.”
After Hagerty indicated he would block the bill’s expeditious passage Saturday, a large group of his Republican colleagues could be seen surrounding him on the Senate floor. Sens. Thune, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, and McConnell’s floor staff all spent several minutes huddling with the junior senator from Tennessee, who told reporters before going to the floor that he wasn’t blocking the passage and was merely letting the regular process play out.
When Hagerty said he wasn’t blocking anything, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons softly responded next to him, “Yes you are.”
This story has been updated with news of senators breaking a filibuster and updates on the process Saturday.
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