Senators Struggle to Amend and Finish the $ 1T Infrastructure Bill

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WASHINGTON – As decision time approaches, Senators struggled to wrap up work on the bipartite infrastructure plan despite hopes to speed up consideration and vote on the proposal by nearly 1 Trillion dollars.

The package was on track for an eventual Senate passage, a rare deal between Republicans and Democrats joining a common priority that is also key to President Joe Biden’s agenda. But senators encountered new problems Thursday night as they worked late at night on amendments. A procedural vote has been set for Saturday.

“We have worked long, hard and collaboratively to complete this important bipartisan bill,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. said just before midnight. Announcing Saturday’s schedule, he said: “We really want to finish.”

Called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the thick bill is a first part of Biden’s infrastructure program and would inject billions in new spending on roads, bridges, water networks, broadband and more. projects in virtually every corner of the country.

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If it is approved by the Senate, it will then go to the House.

The late-night session came to a halt as new debate emerged on proposed amendments to modify the 2,700-page package. Senators have dealt with nearly two dozen amendments so far, and none have substantially changed the framework of the public works package. With more than a dozen amendments to make, senators have struggled to reach agreements.

One of the amendments that garnered the most attention on Thursday concerned cryptocurrency.

The bill would raise about $ 28 billion over 10 years by updating the IRS reporting requirements for cryptocurrency brokers, just as stock brokers report their clients’ sales to the ‘IRS.

Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., And others are concerned that crypto miners, software developers and others may be subject to the new IRS reporting requirement. Toomey led efforts to refine the definition of who should file IRS reporting forms.

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“If we don’t pass this amendment, we could do a lot of damage,” Toomey said. “We could have a very chilling effect on the development of this technology, and that’s what concerns me the most.”

Leading Republican negotiator Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who drafted the provision, tweeted that he agreed with the sponsors of the amendment that more can be done to clarify the intent of the provision and that the Senate should vote on their amendment.

But that vote has yet to take place and the White House weighed in on Thursday night, suggesting it favored a different approach than Portman and other senators.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said the compromise amendment “would reduce tax evasion in the cryptocurrency market.”

He said the administration believes that “this provision will strengthen tax compliance in this emerging area of ​​finance and ensure that high-income taxpayers contribute what they owe under the law.”

The Senate came to a halt for nearly two hours late at night as senators privately debated next steps.

The bill’s main Democratic negotiator, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, said: “While we were unable to agree on additional amendments today, I also look forward to our we were meeting again on Saturday and proceeding in regular order to complete what will be a historic event. legislation, both in its bipartisan nature and in the impact it will have in our country. “

“I … look forward to meeting again on Saturday and proceeding in regular order to complete what will be a historic bill.”

– US Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

US Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.  (Associated press)
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US Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. (Associated press)

Overall, the infrastructure package provides $ 550 billion in new spending over five years above federal levels planned for spending nearly $ 1 trillion, which could be one of the most substantial investments. in roads, bridges, water networks, broadband and the electricity grid in years.

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A long-awaited analysis of the Congressional Budget Office bill concluded that the legislation would increase deficits by about $ 256 billion over the next decade.

It’s unclear whether the budget office’s assessment could pull back support, especially from Republican senators who have been reluctant to use what some see as gimmicks to pay for the package. The drafters of the bill had said the package would be paid for, but the budget office has said in some cases that they are counting the savings that would have been made whether or not the infrastructure bill is passed.

For example, the CBO did not count the $ 53 billion that should be saved, as more than two dozen states removed the increase in unemployment compensation before the benefit expired. Biparty negotiators had also called for $ 56 billion in savings through economic growth, which the CBO ignored.

But supporters of the bill have rushed to defend the overall package, and said it includes additional savings and will spur economic growth in ways the CBO is not measuring.

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If Senators complete their work on the bipartisan bill, they will look to the much more partisan enterprise of the next phase of Biden’s agenda: a $ 3.5 trillion proposal for what the White House calls infrastructure. human – supporting child care, home health care, education, and other spending that are Democratic priorities Republicans have pledged to reject. The debate will last until the fall.

Schumer wants the Senate to pass both the bipartisan package and a budget plan for the bigger proposal before senators leave for a recess in August.

The Senate was expected to be quiet on Friday as many lawmakers attend the funeral of former Senator Mike Enzi in Wyoming. But senators prepare for another weekend session as they push through the two bills.

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