Senators convened on August 7 to get to a vote over the weekend on the Biden administration’s proposed bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he would keep the senators present until the bill was finished and sent to the House, saying it would get done “the easy way or the hard way.”
By midday, senators expected to determine if enough votes were secured to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to move past a Republican filibuster. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) allowed the bill to move forward, signaling his support by saying the process was a “compromise.”
If the Senate can approve an agreed bipartisan bill, Schumer will immediately open the process of moving the highly partisan and controversial second portion of Biden’s infrastructure plan forward. The $3.5 trillion statements will include billions for “human infrastructure,” including child care, health care, education, and other human services projects.
Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), who served as President Trump’s ambassador to Japan, expressed opposition to a quick vote on the bipartisan bill. He is concerned that passing the first bill now would allow Democrats to expedite the vote on the larger bill, which he called a “tax-and-spend spree.”
Some Republican senators have shown enthusiasm for the bill, while others have introduced proposed amendments and taken other steps to improve their negotiating positions.
Democrats had hoped to complete approval of the 2,700-page bill during the week, but the process slowed with the amendment proposals.
Republican scrutiny of the bill increased when the Congressional Budget Office reported increasing deficits by $256 billion.
On August 4, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced an amendment to move funds slated for Amtrak to restart funding for the southern border wall.
Blackburn said that while she is pro-infrastructure, she is “not for the Green New Deal and wasting money.” She added that Amtrak should be able to fund itself through user fees.
The amendment proposes moving $1 billion from the rail service to border wall construction. President Biden halted work on the wall immediately upon taking office. Since then, border apprehension of illegal crossers is at the highest level in at least 15 years.
While she said that the bipartisan bill includes many projects she favors and neglected, Blackburn added that she would not support the bill as currently drafted. She stated that the Senate must be good stewards of taxpayer funds, especially after the colossal spending seen in the first months of the Biden administration.
Blackburn also introduced an amendment that would reverse Biden’s cancellation of permits required to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The House is presently in recess and will not consider any infrastructure bill until it returns in September.