The Senate trudged on Monday toward final passage of a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure package, after clearing the last significant procedural hurdles for the legislation over the weekend.
The legislation is expected to pass, after nearly 70 senators voted to advance it late Sunday night. It is the product of weeks of intense negotiations, largely led by White House officials and a core group of 10 Republican and Democratic senators.
But without unanimous agreement to expedite the process, the bill may not pass until Tuesday morning because Senate rules require 30 hours of debate. Senator Bill Hagerty, Republican of Tennessee, held up a move to expedite the bill over the weekend, largely to protest how it was to be paid for.
After spending a relatively rare weekend in Washington plodding through the legislative process, senators remained hopeful that on Monday they would reach an agreement on postponing the vote until Tuesday at a reasonable, daylight hour, rather than taking a vote in the early morning hours.
Rank-and-file lawmakers spent hours haggling over a pair of dueling amendments that would adjust who would be subject to increased tax scrutiny on cryptocurrency, among other outstanding proposals. Even after a compromise was struck on Monday, negotiators failed to get the necessary unanimous support needed to make changes to the legislation.
As soon as the bipartisan bill clears the Senate, Democratic leaders plan to turn attention to a separate $3.5 trillion budget plan, which would unlock a second expansive legislative package that includes spending on health care, child care and education. Liberal Democrats in the House have said they will not support the bipartisan infrastructure bill without passage of that far larger package.
Half a dozen moderate Democrats, including Representatives Jared Golden of Maine and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, circulated a letter over the weekend calling for Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California to ensure a swift vote on the bipartisan deal.
The Biden administration has cast the bill as an attempt to maintain America’s edge over China and other global competitors. On Monday, the president enlisted the secretary of state to make the argument that investing in infrastructure and innovation in the United States was good foreign policy.
“I’m here to tell you that we could be doing better,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told students, educators and officials at the University of Maryland, where he toured an engineering laboratory. “That is the hard truth. We’re falling behind where we once were in the world. And our rivals slowly but surely are pulling close behind us. In some areas, they’re already ahead of us.”
Mr. Blinken noted that each year China spends three times more than the United States on roads, schools and other infrastructure. He also said China is outpacing the United States in research and development.
The United States ranks ninth in the world in terms of innovation investments while China has surged to No. 2, Mr. Blinken said, citing data from the White House National Economic Council. (Other analyses offer a less dire view of American spending on research and development when compared to China.)
“This matters,” Mr. Blinken said. “It matters because if these trends continue, we’ll be less competitive in a more competitive world.”
Source From Nytimes