Senate Approves Infrastructure Bill, Which Moves to the House—Where it Could Sit (UPDATED AUGUST 11)

The House and Senate are both on August recess, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had said she will not take on the infrastructure package until the Senate passed its $3.5 trillion Fiscal Year 2022 federal spending package. The Senate passed that bill on Aug. 10, in 11th-hour horse trading. It now moves on to the House, but what lies ahead still looks more like a circus.

ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORT

Associated Press writer Alan Fram reported the following on Aug. 11, following the Senate’s final session before recessing until Sept. 13:

“Democrats pushed a $3.5 trillion framework for bolstering family services, health, and environment programs through the Senate early Wednesday, advancing President Joe Biden’s expansive vision for reshaping federal priorities just hours after handing him a companion triumph on a hefty infrastructure package.

“Lawmakers approved Democrats’ budget resolution on a party-line 50-49 vote, a crucial step for a president and party set on training the government’s fiscal might on assisting families, creating jobs and fighting climate change. Higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations would pay for much of it. Passage came despite an avalanche of Republican amendments intended to make their rivals pay a price in next year’s elections for control of Congress.

“House leaders announced their chamber will return from summer recess in two weeks to vote on the fiscal blueprint, which contemplates disbursing the $3.5 trillion over the next decade. Final congressional approval, which seems certain, would protect a subsequent bill actually enacting the outline’s detailed spending and tax changes from a Republican filibuster in the 50-50 Senate, delays that would otherwise kill it. 

“Even so, passing that follow-up legislation will be dicey with party moderates wary of the massive $3.5 trillion price tag vying with progressives demanding aggressive action. The party controls the House with just three votes to spare, while the evenly divided Senate is theirs only due to Vice President Kamala Harris tie-breaking vote. Solid GOP opposition seems guaranteed.

“Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vt.), once a progressive voice in Congress’ wilderness and now a national figure wielding legislative clout, said the measure would help children, families, the elderly and working people—and more. ‘It will also, I hope, restore the faith of the American people in the belief that we can have a government that works for all of us, and not just the few,’ he said.

“Republicans argued that Democrats’ proposals would waste money, raise economy-wounding taxes, fuel inflation and codify far-left dictates that would harm Americans. They were happy to use Sanders, a self-avowed democratic socialist, to try tarring all Democrats backing the measure.

“If Biden and Senate Democrats want to ‘outsource domestic policy to Chairman Sanders’ with a ‘historically reckless taxing and spending spree,’ Republicans lack the votes to stop them, conceded Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). ‘But we will debate. We will vote.’ 

“The Senate turned to the budget hours after it approved the other big chunk of Biden’s objectives, a compromise $1.2 trillion bundle of transportation, water, broadband and other infrastructure projects. That measure, passed 69-30 with McConnell among the 19 Republicans backing it, also needs House approval. 

“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) assured progressives that Congress will pursue sweeping initiatives going beyond that infrastructure package. ‘To my colleagues who are concerned that this does not do enough on climate, for families, and making corporations and the rich pay their fair share: We are moving on to a second track, which will make a generational transformation in these areas,’ Schumer said.

“In a budget ritual, senators plunged into a ‘vote-a-rama,’ a nonstop parade of messaging amendments that often becomes a painful all-night ordeal. This time, the Senate held more than 40 roll calls by the time it approved the measure at around 4 a.m. EDT, more than 14 hours after the procedural wretchedness began.

“With the budget resolution largely advisory, the goal of most amendments was not to win but to force the other party’s vulnerable senators to cast troublesome votes that can be used against them in next year’s elections for congressional control.”

Railway Age editors Marybeth Luczak and William C. Vantuono contributed to this story.

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