A bipartisan infrastructure bill negotiated by Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman and Arizona Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema moved forward earlier today when two-thirds of the chamber’s members (all Democrats and independents, plus seventeen Republicans) voted to invoke cloture on the legislation, allowing it to finally be formally considered on the Senate floor.
The compromise legislation, which has the support of the White House, is being hailed by the Biden-Harris administration as a groundbreaking set of investments in everything from bridges and broadband to mass transit and water pipes.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said:
I am pleased to join a bipartisan group of United States Senators and announce our deal to make the most significant long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century.
I want to thank the bipartisan group for working together and the committee chairs for raising their ideas and concerns with me, Vice President Harris, and members of the Cabinet.
This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things. As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future.
This deal makes key investments to put people to work all across the country—in cities, small towns, rural communities, and across our coastlines and plains.
It will put Americans to work in good-paying, union jobs repairing our roads and bridges. It will put plumbers and pipefitters to work replacing all of the nation’s lead water pipes so every child and every American can turn on the faucet at home or school and drink clean water—including in low-income communities and communities of color that have been disproportionally affected by dangerous lead pipes.
Americans will build transmission lines and upgrade our power grid to be more resilient and cleaner. Americans will strengthen our infrastructure, like our levees, in the face of extreme weather like superstorms, wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, and heat waves.
American workers will make a historic investment to install the first-ever national network electric vehicle charging stations and undertake critical environmental clean-ups.
This bipartisan deal is the most important investment in public transit in American history and the most important investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak fifty years ago.
It will deliver high speed internet to every American.
And, we’re going to do it without raising taxes by one cent on people making less than $400,000 a year — no gas tax increase and no fee on electric vehicles.
This agreement will help ensure that America can compete in the global economy just when we are in a race with China and the rest of the world for the twenty-first Century.
And, it comes at a critical time. We are emerging from this pandemic with an economy that is back from the brink. We are seeing the fastest job growth on record. We are experiencing the fastest economic growth in nearly four decades.
Everyone from unions to business leaders and economists left, right, and center believe the public investments in this deal will mean more jobs, higher productivity, and higher growth for our economy over the long term. Experts believe that the majority of the deal’s benefits will flow to working families.
Of course, neither side got everything they wanted in this deal.
But that’s what it means to compromise and forge consensus—the heart of democracy. As the deal goes to the entire Senate, there is still plenty of work ahead to bring this home. There will be disagreements to resolve and more compromise to forge along the way.
But the bottom line is—the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America that will help make our historic economic recovery a historic long-term boom.
To say that neither side got everything they wanted in the deal seems like a big understatement. Getting seventeen Republicans on board came at a steep price.
The final compromise contains less money for priorities like transit than the administration and Democratic negotiators had proposed, leading the Pacific Northwest’s own Peter DeFazio (D‑Oregon, 4th District) to complain: “From what we have heard, having seen no text, this bill is going to be status quo, 1950s policy with a little tiny add-on… If it’s what I think it is, I will be opposed.”
DeFazio is the Chair of the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and is a key voice for the House Democratic caucus on infrastructure.
DeFazio’s colleague Pramila Jayapal, meanwhile, warned that the Congressional Progressive Caucus — which she chairs — would not support the bipartisan bill unless a larger appropriations bill done through reconciliation is also sent over from the Senate with money for priorities Republicans won’t support.
“The investments we identified months ago are longstanding Democratic priorities, including affordable housing, Medicare expansion, strengthening the care economy, climate action, and a roadmap to citizenship. Our Caucus will continue to demand that Congress fulfill the mandate we were elected on: to deliver necessary, urgent, and transformational change for working families,” Jayapal said in a statement published by the caucus.
The votes do not exist in the House to pass the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure compromise without the support of the Progressive Caucus.
The White House knows this, but has been focused on breaking the logjam for the American Jobs Plan (or components of it, anyway) in the Senate, which only has a bare majority of fifty Democratic and independent senators.
Several Democratic senators — chiefly Sinema and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin — have been vocal about their desire for bipartisanship and have insisted on trying to find common ground with Republicans like Ohio’s Portman.
The White House has played ball, with Biden’s team engaged in talks and the President himself participating in meetings to facilitate a deal.
After weeks of fragile negotiations and dead ends, the effort to secure a bipartisan bill appears to be yielding some fruit, but many hurdles remain.
Not only does the bipartisan bill still have to get voted out of the Senate, but the chamber also then has to send over the bigger appropriations package that House progressives have staked their support on (which some Democratic senators are also very keen to get to Biden’s desk and signed into law). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who is considered by many people to be Congress’ most skilled vote counter — has said the bipartisan bill won’t be considered if it’s sent alone.
Sinema angered progressives today when she said she did not want to support a bill that invested $3.5 trillion in the nation’s needs, saying that figure was too high. But if she wants her bipartisan bill to clear the House, she will need to vote for the appropriations package, or there will be no deal at all, since not a single Republican is expected to vote for the appropriations package.
United States Senator Patty Murray, a veteran appropriator and the third-ranking Democratic member of the Senate, characterized the vote on the deal as a positive development, but stressed that getting the larger appropriations package across the finish line was also just as essential.
“We’ve been working on this important bipartisan bill for weeks, and I’m glad we’re finally moving towards a vote, because we have to get this done,” said Murray. “The people of Washington State simply can’t wait any longer for essential investments in our roads and bridges, public transit, clean drinking water, our energy grid, and other critical physical infrastructure needs.”
“I want to be clear that this bill is just step one,” Murray continued.
“Once we get this done, we will move on to a reconciliation package to even the playing field for working families and help our country build back stronger and fairer… From affordable housing, to investing in home care for people with disabilities and older Americans, to making community college free, to building our public health infrastructure — there is so much more work that needs to be done, so this bipartisan infrastructure package is only the beginning.”
The roll call from the Pacific Northwest to invoke cloture on H.R. 3684 (officially titled the INVEST in America Act) was as follows:
Voting Aye to Invoke Cloture: Democratic Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Jon Tester (MT); Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID)
Voting Nay to Filibuster: Republican Senators Dan Sullivan (AK) and Steve Daines (MT)
The final vote was sixty-seven to thirty-two, with one not voting (Republican Senator Dan Rounds, of South Dakota).