Biden pushes Senate on ‘landmark’ infrastructure bill
WASHINGTON – Despite a hectic week in turmoil, President Joe Biden congratulated the Senate on Friday for bringing the bipartisan infrastructure plan closer to the passage, ahead of a key vote on the $ 1,000 billion package.
As Biden spoke from the White House, he compared the “historic investment” to building the transcontinental railroad or the interstate highway system – lofty themes he has already touched upon as he encouraged. the Congress. Public works projects launched will be fueled by well-paying blue-collar jobs, he said.
The President’s note of encouragement offers lawmakers a reset after frustrations mounted and spirits flared overnight as the Senate stagnated, unable to speed the process to completion. Senators will be back for another weekend sitting.
“This is a bill that would end years of stalemate in Washington and create millions of well-paying jobs, put America on a new course to win the race for the economy in the 21st century,” Biden said.
Public works spending “will not only allow us to rebuild but to rebuild better than before the economic crisis,” he said.
Decision time is near for Congress, and in particular the Senate, to make gains on the President’s infrastructure priorities – first with the bipartisan bill that is on track to be passed as early as this weekend, and quickly followed by the Democrats’ more ambitious $ 3.5 trillion budget plan that they plan to fend for on their own.
Senators had hoped to wrap up the bipartisan bill Thursday night, before many left to attend the Wyoming funeral on Friday for a colleague, former Republican Senator Mike Enzi.
But the Senate halted with new problems as senators worked late into the night on amendments and to counter objections from Republican opponents to the plan to speed up the process. A procedural vote has been set for Saturday.
“We have worked long, hard and collaboratively to complete this important bipartisan bill.” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., 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 of new spending into roads, bridges, water networks, broadband and more. projects in virtually every corner of the country. If it is approved by the Senate, it will then go to the House.
The late-night session came to a halt as further 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.
A long-awaited analysis of the Congressional Budget Office bill has also raised concerns, particularly from Republicans. He concluded that the legislation would increase deficits by around $ 256 billion over the next decade, although supporters of the bill argued that the budget office was unable to take certain into account. sources of income, including those for future economic growth.
Senator Bill Haggerty, R-Tenn., An ally of Donald Trump and the former president’s former ambassador to Japan, has said he opposes speeding up consideration of the bill because of its price tag raised.
“I could not in good conscience allow this to happen,” Hagerty said in a statement Friday morning. He said he was particularly concerned that passage of the bipartisan bill would pave the way for Democrats to quickly move on to their $ 3.5 trillion “tax and spending frenzy”.
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 who wanted to refine the definition of who has to fill out these IRS forms worried that crypto miners, software developers and others would be subject to the new reporting requirement.
Toomey warned that the provision, as drafted, could have “a chilling effect on the development of this technology, and that’s what concerns me the most.”
The White House weighed in late, suggesting it preferred a different approach from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., And other senators.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said the compromise amendment “would reduce tax evasion in the cryptocurrency market.”
Overall, the infrastructure bill provides $ 550 billion in new spending over five years above federal levels planned for a nearly $ 1,000 billion package, in what could be one the most substantial investments in roads, bridges, water networks, broadband and the country’s electricity network. in years.
If Senators complete their work on the bipartisan bill, they will turn to the much more partisan enterprise of Biden’s agenda: a $ 3.5 trillion proposal for what the White House calls infrastructure. human – help with child care, home health care, education, and other expenses that are Democratic priorities that 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.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.