Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Infrastructure deal: Senate ready to move forward on $1T bill

WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans reached an agreement with Democrats on Wednesday on key outstanding issues in a $1 trillion infrastructure package that is set to begin considering a key part of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

Rob Portman, lead GOP negotiator from Ohio, made the announcement at the Capitol, along with four other Republican senators who were negotiating with Democrats and the White House on a bipartisan package.

“We now have an agreement on key issues,” Portman said. “We are ready to move on.”

When asked about the deal during a tour of a truck plant in Pennsylvania, Biden agreed.

“I feel confident about it,” he said.

For days, senators and the White House have worked to salvage the bipartisan deal, a key part of Biden’s agenda.

The result will set the stage for the next debate over Biden’s more ambitious $3.5 trillion spending package, a strictly partisan effort to far-reach programs and services including child care, tax breaks and health care that touch nearly every corner of American life, And which Republicans vehemently oppose.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer opened the Senate on Wednesday evening announcing a possible test vote on a bipartisan package. For the idea to proceed, 60 votes in an equally divided 50-50 Senate would be needed, meaning the support of both sides. This would begin a potentially lengthy process to consider the bill, and any possible amendments.

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Republican senators met on Wednesday morning with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, who has given his approval to move forward. Portman said McConnell “has always been encouraging our efforts.”

Kirsten Cinema of Arizona, a prominent Democratic negotiator, said she expected the package to have enough support to go ahead.

Cinema said it spoke with Biden on Wednesday and was “very excited” to work out a settlement.

Democrats, who have thin control of the House and Senate, are faced with a timeline to act on what will be some of the most important pieces of legislation in years.

The bipartisan package includes about $600 billion in new spending on highways, bridges, transit, broadband, water systems and other public works projects.

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Filling out the details has become a month-long exercise ever since senators struck a deal with Biden over a comprehensive framework more than a month ago. Work remains to be done to draft the legislative text.

Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who has been at the center of the conversation, said, “It doesn’t mean that every ‘T’ is crossed out, every ‘I’ is dotted, but on key issues we’re there. Huh.”

Infrastructure deal: Senate ready to move forward on $1T bill
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