WASHINGTON — The Senate convened for a rare weekend session on Saturday, with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer encouraging authors of the bipartisan infrastructure plan to write his nearly $1 trillion bill so that senators can begin offering amendments.
Several senators had predicted that the text of the bill would be ready for review late Friday or early Saturday, but that did not happen when the Senate opened for business late in the morning. When Schumer came on the floor in the evening, he was not ready either.
“I have been informed that the group is working hard to bring this negotiation to a conclusion, but they need a little more time,” Schumer said. “I’m ready to give it to them.”
Schumer, a New York Democrat, said earlier in the day that he understood the writing of such a massive bill was a difficult project to complete, but warned he was prepared to keep lawmakers in Washington until the votes were cast. It takes time to complete. on both a bipartisan infrastructure plan and a budget blueprint that would allow the Senate to begin work on a massive $3.5 trillion social, health and environmental bill later this year.
“The longer it takes to finish it, the longer we’ll be here, but we’re going to get the job done,” he said.
The bipartisan plan calls for $550 billion in new spending over five years above projected federal levels. A draft bill that circulated Capitol Hill indicated that it could contain more than 2,500 pages when introduced. It is being financed from funding sources that may not pass muster with a deficit hawk, including repurposing unused COVID-19 relief aid and relying on projected future economic growth.
Major investments include $110 billion for roads and bridges, $39 billion for public transportation and $66 billion for rail. There is also $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure as well as airports, seaports, broadband Internet and electric vehicle charging stations.
A bipartisan group of senators helped clear another hurdle on Friday to see if it could find support during the next few days of debate and efforts to revise it.
Schumer wants voting to end before senators break through for the August recess. He said once the legislative text is finalized, he will review it and place it before the House as an alternative to the shell bill currently in place. Then, senators can begin voting on the amendments.
“We may need a weekend, we can vote on several amendments, but with the cooperation of our Republican allies, I believe we can finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a matter of days, Schumer said Friday night.
But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas predicted, “It’s going to be a grind.”
Earlier this week, 17 GOP senators joined all Democrats in voting to begin debate, what would be a one-day process for the bill to be considered. That support held largely on Friday during another procedural vote, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., again voting yes to move the process forward.
The number of Republican senators wanting to pass a significant portion of President Joe Biden’s agenda, increasing or decreasing in the coming days, will determine whether the issue of the president’s signature can eliminate it.
Cornyn said he hoped Schumer would give all senators a chance to shape the bill and allow amendments from members of both sides.
“I’m disappointed that Sen. Schumer sees fit to try to force us to vote on a bill that doesn’t fully exist, but I hope we can pump the brakes a little bit now.” and can take the time and care to evaluate the benefits and costs of this legislation,” Cornyn said.
Censors Rob Portman, R-Ohio and Kirsten Cinemas, D-Ariz., issued a statement Friday saying they are close to finalizing the legislative text and expect to make it public later in the day. But Friday has come and gone without the final paperwork.
“When the legislative text that reflects the product of our group is finalized, we will make it public together in line with the bipartisan way we’ve worked for the past four months,” the senators said.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA, said Saturday that negotiators were finalizing the final few pieces, but he had no predictions when it would be ready for senators to revise and debate. He said some lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have in some ways balked at the bill, but in the end, it will provide the kind of investment that lawmakers have talked about for years, but are unable to comply. have been unable.
“Something has made sense, well, infrastructure, that shouldn’t be hard to do. If it wasn’t hard to do, why did it take 30 years to get to this moment?” Warner said.
The results of the bipartisan effort 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 childcare, tax breaks and health care that touch nearly every corner of the US . life. Republicans strongly oppose the bill, which would require a simple majority, and may try to block both.