The Senate voted Friday to keep a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure package on track after a last-minute dispute about details of the emerging agreement had threatened to delay its consideration.
By a vote of 66-28, with 16 Republicans joining Democrats, the measure survived its second test vote as senators in both parties raced to finalize their deal. They were pushing to make progress before a weekend session to debate the sprawling plan, which would fund roads, bridges and highways as well as broadband and climate resiliency projects.
Senate Democrats want to pass the bipartisan measure and their $3.5 trillion budget blueprint — which they plan to muscle through over Republican opposition — before a summer recess scheduled to begin at the end of next week.
The bipartisan bill hit a temporary snag Friday after some senators privately balked at a 2,540-page draft circulated on Capitol Hill, saying it contained provisions they opposed.
That prompted the lead negotiators — Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. — to issue an unusual public statement seeking to reassure their colleagues that the bill was not yet finished.
“While various pieces of legislative text have been circulating among members, staff and the public for days, if not weeks, none of it is the final legislative text and should not be considered as such,” they said, adding that a finished product was “close” and that they hoped to make it public later Friday.
Hours later, the bill — which is expected to provide $550 billion in new funding for physical infrastructure projects — had not yet materialized.
After seeing drafts they had not approved circulating Friday morning, Republicans had raised concern that Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the majority leader, might be trying to trick them into considering a more liberal-leaning measure than the one agreed upon this week. They also cited lingering disputes over broadband policy and the regulation of cryptocurrency, which is included in the deal as a way to pay for infrastructure projects.
Democrats said there was no deception, and Portman said the majority leader had promised him that the bipartisan group “has the pen” on the final bill.
After 17 Republicans voted Wednesday with all 50 members of the Democratic caucus to take up the bill, negotiators were hopeful that even more Republicans would sign on once the text was released.
“We can finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a matter of days,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Friday.
Senate Democrats also want to act within days on a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that would carry the remainder of President Joe Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda, including health care, paid leave and additional provisions to address climate change.
“We are champing at the bit and raring to go,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Friday of the budget plan, which Democrats plan to move through Congress using a budget maneuver known as reconciliation, shielding it from a filibuster and allowing it to pass with only Democratic votes. “We have to negotiate the details. To negotiate a bill where you have to make 50 out of 50 Democrats feel good about it? I wouldn’t want to have Chuck Schumer’s job.”