Senate ends Saturday session – with infrastructure bill still in limbo

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WASHINGTON – Unable to produce the final text of a nearly $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill, the Senate concluded a rare Saturday session with little visible progress on the legislative package, but the head of the Senate majority Chuck Schumer promised the job would be done.

The Senate is scheduled to meet again on Sunday. Senators and staff have worked behind the scenes for days drafting what is sure to be a huge bill. A first draft swelled beyond 2,500 pages. To spur work, Schumer kept Senators in a weekend session, encouraging authors of a bipartisan infrastructure plan to finish drafting the bill so Senators could begin proposing amendments.

Several senators had predicted that the text of the bill would be ready for consideration late Friday or early Saturday, but that was not done when the Senate opened late in the morning. He was also not ready to be dropped off when Schumer closed the room 11 hours later.

“They need a little more time,” Schumer said in the evening. “I’m ready to give it to them.”

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Schumer, DN.Y., said he understands that completing drafting of such an important bill is a difficult project, but he warned he was prepared to keep lawmakers in Washington for that long. than it would take to complete the votes on the bipartite infrastructure. plan and budget plan that would allow the Senate to begin work later this year on a massive $ 3.5 trillion social, health and environmental bill.

“The longer it takes to finish, the longer we’ll be here, but we’re going to get the job done,” he said.

“The longer it takes to finish, the longer we’ll be here, but we’ll get the job done.”

– Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y.  (Associated press)
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. (Associated press)

The bipartisan plan calls for $ 550 billion in new spending over five years above planned federal levels. A draft bill circulating in Capitol Hill indicated that it could have more than 2,500 pages when it was presented. It is funded from funding sources that may not succeed with deficit hawks, including reallocating untapped COVID-19 relief aid and building on projected future economic growth.

Major investments include $ 110 billion for roads and bridges, $ 39 billion for public transit and $ 66 billion for rail. There is also $ 55 billion for water and sanitation infrastructure as well as billions for airports, ports, high-speed internet and electric vehicle charging stations.

A bipartisan group of senators helped him clear another hurdle on Friday and prepared to see if support could hold up over the next few days of debate and efforts to change it.

Schumer wants the vote to be completed before Senators break for their August recess. He said that once the legislation is finalized, he will review it and propose it as a replacement for the fictitious bill currently before the chamber. Then senators can start voting on the amendments.

“We may need the weekend, we can vote on several amendments, but with the cooperation of our fellow Republicans, I think we can complete the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a matter of days,” Schumer said on Friday evening. .

But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, predicted, “It’s going to be a chore.”

Earlier this week, 17 GOP senators joined with all Democrats in voting to start the debate, kicking off what will be a multi-day process to consider the bill. That support was largely held on Friday in another procedural vote, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell R-Ky. Again voting yes to move the process forward.

Whether the number of Republican senators willing to embrace a key part of President Joe Biden’s platform increases or decreases in the days to come will determine whether the issue of the president’s signature can cross the finish line.

Cornyn said he expects Schumer to allow all senators the opportunity to shape the bill and allow amendments from members of both parties.

“I was disappointed that Senator Schumer saw fit to try to force us to vote on a bill that does not exist in its entirety, but I hope we can now put the brakes on a bit and take the time. and the care to weigh the benefits and costs of this legislation, ”said Cornyn.

“I was disappointed that Senator Schumer saw fit to try to force us to vote on a bill that does not exist in its entirety.”

– US Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas

US Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas.  (Reuters)

US Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas. (Reuters)

Senators Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Released a statement Friday saying they were close to finalizing the legislation and hoped to release it later today. But Friday came and went without final papers.

“When the legislation is finalized and reflects the product of our group, we will release it together in accordance with the bipartisan way we have worked over the past four months,” the senators said.

Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., Said on Saturday that negotiators were finalizing the final elements, but had no predictions as to when he would be ready for senators to have amendments and debate . He said some lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle had passed the bill in some ways, but ultimately it would provide the kind of investment lawmakers have been talking about for years but haven’t could not follow up.

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“There was a certain sense of infrastructure, it shouldn’t be hard to do. If it wasn’t hard to do, why did it take 30 years to get to this point?” Warner said.

The outcome of the bipartisan effort will set the stage for the next debate on Biden’s much more ambitious $ 3.5 trillion spending program, a strictly partisan pursuit of high-profile programs and services, including custody. children, tax breaks and health care that affect almost every corner of American life. Republicans strongly oppose this bill, which would require a simple majority, and may attempt to stop both.

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