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Senate Advance Infrastructure Plan     07/30 15:33

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate advanced a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure 
plan on Friday with a bipartisan group of senators helping it clear one more 
hurdle and bracing to see if support can hold during the next few days of 
debate and efforts to amend it.

   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that the chamber should 
be able to process the legislation quickly given the bipartisan support.

   "We may need the weekend, we may vote on several amendments, but with the 
cooperation of our Republican colleagues I believe we can finish the bipartisan 
infrastructure bill in a matter of days," Schumer said.

   But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, predicted, "It's going to be a grind."

   The effort got off to a haphazard start on Friday. Shortly after the Senate 
began the procedural vote, it was stopped. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., indicated 
Republicans would need to see the full text of the bill before agreeing to go 
forward.

   Moments later, the vote resumed and the effort to proceed to consideration 
of the bill passed by a vote of 66-28.

   Earlier this week, 17 GOP senators joined all Democrats in voting to start 
the debate, launching what will be a dayslong process to consider the bill. 
That support largely held Friday with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of 
Kentucky again voting yes to nudge the process along.

   But whether the number of Republican senators willing to pass a key part of 
President Joe Biden's agenda grows or shrinks in the days ahead will determine 
if the president's signature issue can make it across the finish line.

   Cornyn said that he expects Schumer to allow all senators to have a chance 
to shape the bill and allow for amendments from members of both political 
parties.

   "I've been disappointed that Senator Schumer has seen to fit to try to force 
us to vote on a bill that does not exist in its entirety, but I hope we can now 
pump the brakes a little bit and take the time and care to evaluate the 
benefits and the cost of this legislation," Cornyn said.

   Schumer planned to introduce the text of the bill later in the day with 
supporters hoping to complete action before leaving for the August recess. 
Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., released a statement 
saying they were close to finalizing the legislative text and hope to make it 
public later in the day.

   "When legislative text is finalized that reflects the product of our group, 
we will make it public together consistent with the bipartisan way we've worked 
for the last four months," the senators said.

   The bipartisan plan is big, with $550 billion in new spending over five 
years beyond the typical highway and public works accounts. It's being financed 
from funding sources that may not pass muster with deficit hawks, including 
repurposing untapped COVID-19 relief aid and relying on projected future 
economic growth.

   Among the major investments are $110 billion for roads and bridges, $39 
billion for public transit and $66 billion for rail. There's also $55 billion 
for water and wastewater infrastructure as well as billions for airports, 
ports, broadband and electric vehicle charging stations.

   The outcome will set the stage for the next debate over Biden's much more 
ambitious $3.5 trillion spending package, a strictly partisan pursuit of 
far-reaching programs and services including child care, tax breaks and health 
care that touch almost every corner of American life. Republicans strongly 
oppose that bill, which would require a simple majority, and may try to stop 
both.

   On the other side of the Capitol, a bipartisan group of senators and 
representative gathered to voice their support for the narrower, bipartisan 
infrastructure effort and to encourage House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow a 
quick vote on it after it passes the Senate. However, Pelosi has stated there 
won't be an infrastructure bill vote unless the Senate also passes the more 
ambitious package, too.

   "I'm not asking Speaker Pelosi today to support the bill. I'm asking for 
something a lot more basic than that. I'm asking to give us a vote," said Rep. 
Dusty Johnson, R-S.D. "Let us vote."

   Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. also appealed for a stand-alone vote 
on the bipartisan plan because "that's what the country wants."

    

 
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