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Senate slowly presses forward on bipartisan infrastructure bill

Bipartisan infrastructure bill text unveiled
Bipartisan infrastructure bill text unveiled 20:03

Washington — The Senate is slowly inching closer to a final vote on the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, as debate on amendments to the proposal continues and Republicans urge their Democratic colleagues not to move too quickly.

The Senate has so far considered eight amendments to the plan, which provides $550 billion in new spending to revitalize the nation's physical infrastructure. The upper chamber is poised to consider another "substantial tranche" of amendments Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, though an agreement on the total number of amendments to weigh has not yet been reached.

"The Senate is moving full steam ahead on the bipartisan infrastructure bill," the New York Democrat said in remarks on the Senate floor, adding they're "making great progress on amendments, and we're going to make further progress very soon."

It's unclear when Schumer will move to bring the amendment process to a close, but Republicans on Tuesday urged him not to act too fast or he would risk losing their support for ending debate, which requires 60 votes.

"This is an extremely important, bipartisan bill. There's an excellent chance it will be a bipartisan success story for the country," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. "To try to truncate the amendment process on something of this magnitude, I think is a mistake."

McConnell said senators know they will be in Washington next week to take up a separate $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which provides the blueprint for a broader spending package, and advised Schumer that "slow and steady wins the race."

The Senate began considering amendments to the bipartisan infrastructure bill Monday after the group of senators negotiating the proposal released its legislative text Sunday night.

While some of the Senate negotiators said Sunday they hoped to pass the measure by the end of the week, those plans appear derailed. More than 300 amendments to the bipartisan bill have been filed as of midday Wednesday, though not all will get a vote.

Schumer on Tuesday urged Republicans and Democrats to work together on the amendment process and reiterated that senators would remain in Washington until they pass both the bipartisan bill and budget resolution.

"The bottom line is this: the Senate can work through amendments rather efficiently when we have cooperation between the majority and the minority, as we have had in this bipartisan legislation," he said. "It can go rather slowly, of course, without that cooperation. In either case, the Senate is going to stay here until we finish our work."

The release of the bipartisan infrastructure bill caps weeks of negotiations between Republicans, Democrats and the White House over a framework agreed to in June. President Biden has cheered the proposal as the largest investment in the nation's roads, bridges, rails and transit in years.

Both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the broader $3.5 trillion measure make up key aspects of Mr. Biden's economic agenda, and Congress is weighing the legislation on parallel tracks. The more sweeping plan encompasses the president's policies on health care, child care, education and the environment that were left out of the first narrow infrastructure bill and will move through Congress under a procedure called budget reconciliation. That process allows the $3.5 trillion plan to pass the Senate without Republican support, but would require the backing of all 50 Democratic senators.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will not bring the bipartisan infrastructure bill to the floor for a vote until the Senate sends over the larger proposal. 

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