Biden's $1trillion infrastructure plan FINALLY clears Senate hurdle: 17 Republicans including Mitch McConnell join Democrats to let package with $550billion in new spending advance
The Senate on Wednesday voted to take up one of President Biden's key national spending priorities, as 17 Republicans jointed with Democrats to vote to take up a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Among those voting to cut off debate and proceed to the bill were Republicans who helped hammer out the deal as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has maneuvered to kill numerous Democratic legislative priorities and nominations in the past, as well as a group of conservative lawmakers with institutional bents.
The vote was 67 to 32. A total of 60 votes were needed to break a Republican filibuster, meaning Democrats who control the 50-50 Senate needed support of at least 10 Republicans.
The GOP contingent came despite former President Donald Trump ripping Republicans who worked out the deal as 'RINOs' and called the deal a 'loser' – and threatening to run primaries against them.
Among them were Sens. James Risch of Idaho, Todd Young of Alaska, Michael Crapo of Idaho, Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Sen. Kevin Carmer of North Dakota, in addition to the GOP negotiators Trump mocked. Trump's threat came a day after his favored candidate lost in a Texas special election.
The votes came even as some of the final details of the agreement remained under wraps – but after verbal commitments by negotiators.
It came after negotiators reached a breakthrough in months-long talks, prompting President Joe Biden to praise the deal.
Biden on Wednesday trumpeted an agreement in broad terms as proving 'democracy can function.'
His praise for the deal came shortly after a group of Senate Republicans announced it – and shortly before former President Donald Trump termed the deal a 'loser for the USA.'
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell late Wednesday announced that he would vote for a key procedural motion to get to the bill, based on a commitment that the latest deal would become the main text that came up for debate.
Biden promoted the $1.2 trillion agreement after helping hammer out the agreement with a group of Senate Democrats and Republicans – with an even bigger budget package that Republicans fiercely oppose waiting in the wings.
'I am pleased to join a bipartisan group of United States Senators and announce our deal to make the most significant long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century,' Biden said in a statement hours after Republican Sen. Rob Portman first announced an agreement on the main issues.
'This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things. As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future,' Biden said.
'This deal makes key investments to put people to work all across the country—in cities, small towns, rural communities, and across our coastlines and plains.'
Biden spoke after the negotiators reached agreement on the major components of a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, clearing the way for a procedural vote on Wednesday to move toward formal debate and passage, a Republican lawmaker said.
Former President Donald Trump, who has fashioned himself into a vital force in the Republican Party, trashed the deal one again Wednesday night.
'Hard to believe our Senate Republicans are dealing with the Radical Left Democrats in making a so-called bipartisan bill on “infrastructure,” with our negotiators headed up by SUPER RINO Mitt Romney,' Trump said in a statement.
'This will be a victory for the Biden Administration and Democrats, and will be heavily used in the 2022 election. It is a loser for the USA, a terrible deal, and makes the Republicans look weak, foolish, and dumb. It shouldn’t be done.'
Trump said it would lead to the 'continued destruction' of the country – even as lawmakers touted its provisions for new broadband, clean drinking water, and new roads.
'Don’t do it Republicans—Patriots will never forget! If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way!' he warned.
'We now have agreement on the major issues. We are prepared to move forward,' Senator Rob Portman, the lead Republican negotiator in infrastructure talks, told reporters after a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Portman said the bill would be paid for, meaning it would not have a negative budget impact.
The deal brings possible action on a major spending priority for the president, who has long touted his decades spent in the Senate and his ability to bring Democrats and Republicans to the table.
It includes $550 billion in new infrastructure spending, a figure that grows to $1 trillion when other planned projects are included. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said there was $65 billion on broadband and broadband affordability, NBC reported.
It would include $66 billion for rail, and $55 billion for drinking water. According to the White House, the deal would get paid for through unspent funds from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus package, plus user fees and even efforts to crack down on enforcement of taxes on transactions involving cryptocurrencies.
Biden touted the breakthrough at a speech in Lower Macungie Township, Pennsylvania.
'I was just on the phone – looks like they reached a bipartisan agreement,' Biden said.
He said the infrastructure deal was a 'fancy word for bridges roads, transit systems, high speed internet ...' and other programs. He touted projects for capping so-called 'orphan wells.
'I’m working with Democrats and Republicans to get this done,' he said, even though there is a 'a lot we don't agree on.'
He then went on to tout his separate 'Build Back Better' plan, which includes 'human infrastructure' projects he wants to use through a special budget procedure. He singled out universal pre-K, community college, child care, and paid leave.
Details of the legislation were still being finalized. But the Ohio Republican predicted that legislative text for the bill would be completed later on Wednesday, when the Senate was expected to hold a 'cloture' vote to move forward on the package after months of talks.
The procedural vote would simply limit debate on whether the Senate should begin considering a bipartisan infrastructure investment bill, thought to be in the range of $1.2 trillion.
Four other Republican negotiators joined Portman, including Senator Lisa Murkowski, who said the agreement showed Republicans and Democrats in the often divided U.S. Congress 'can come together over really hard stuff to negotiate in good faith to broker an agreement.'
Also appearing with Portman, a former top White House aide, House member, and White House trade advisor, were Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mitt Romney of Utah, and Susan Collins of Maine.
Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., a lead Democratic negotiator, said she spoke Wednesday with President Joe Biden and he was 'very excited' to have a deal.
Cassidy appeared to take a shot at former President Donald Trump, who ripped negotiators as 'RINOS' and urged Republicans to oppose it.
'I am amazed that there’s some who oppose this just because they think that if you ever get anything done, somehow it's a sign of weakness,' he said. 'I have no clue what they mean. My state has been impacted more than any other state by flooding and natural disasters these past two years.'
The agreement includes $110 billion for roads, $65 billion to expand broadband access and $47 billion for environmental resiliency, the lawmakers said.
It falls short of Biden had initially sought – but the White House is still in negotiations with lawmakers about a separate 'reconciliation' package that contains liberal funding priorities.
Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said a procedural vote on a bipartisan bill was possible as soon as Wednesday night.
'Senators continue to make good progress,' Democrat Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor.
He had threatened to keep the Senate out of a planned recess until a deal gets done.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Senate GOP whip, told reporters Tuesday there are 'a number of our members who want to get to yes' but have concerns.
It will require 60 votes in the evenly split 50-50 Senate to proceed to consideration of the legislation, meaning support from both parties. That would launch a potentially days-long process to consider the bill, and any possible amendments.
Before the announcement, Murkowski told reporters: 'I think that there is a strong, solid number of folks on both sides of the aisle that want to get on to an infrastructure package.'
Democrats hope to pass this month or early next month whatever measure is agreed upon in the bipartisan negotiations.
That could help clear the way for Democrats to begin pushing another large spending bill totaling around $3.5 trillion that Republicans have vowed to oppose.
Even if the deal clears the Senate, with some key senators indicating they are willing to move to it, the deal would have to make it through the House, where the Democratic majority is in control.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she won't act on the package until the larger reconciliation package is also sewn up.