Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said he expects the chamber’s bipartisan infrastructure bill to pass later this week, now that the long-awaited measure was finally unveiled Sunday night.
“Given how bipartisan the bill is and how much work has already been put in to get the details right, I believe the Senate can quickly process relevant amendments and pass this bill in a matter of days,” Schumer said Sunday night just before taking the procedural steps to bring up the 2,702-page text as a substitute amendment to a legislative vehicle.
It’s unclear how many amendments will be offered or whether the Senate can pass the legislation as quickly as Schumer predicts, if criticisms from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, are any indication. Lee, who has not been part of the Senate negotiations, criticized the bill on Sunday night for spending too much money and for using what he characterized as misguided or unusual “pay-fors” to offset that spending.
“Infrastructure benefits us in countless ways,” Lee said. “The fact that infrastructure is a good thing and that we need it is a different question from whether we can afford the infrastructure plan in this particular case.”
Lee noted that the bipartisan negotiators, led by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio, worked on their proposals for months. He suggested the rest of the Senate should have weeks or months for themselves to digest the proposal, review analysis of its provisions and gather input from constituents.
He also argued that members should be able to offer up as “many amendments as we may choose” and to get votes on those amendments.
“Often it’s through the amendment process that we discover the nooks and crannies, we discover the unintended consequences, that we allow the public to have visibility into what has been a process that most people don't have access to,” Lee said.
The Senate is hoping to dispatch with the infrastructure legislation this week and move to the second part of what Schumer described as a dual-track process to pass President Joe Biden’s legislative priorities.
The next step for the Senate is to follow with a budget resolution measure that would set the stage for trillions of additional spending to expand Medicare, child tax credits and more — a measure unlikely to garner any Republican support.
“A bipartisan infrastructure bill is definitely necessary, but to many of us, it is not sufficient,” Schumer said. “That’s why soon after this bill passes the Senate, Democrats will press forward with a budget resolution to allow the Senate to make further historic, vitally important investments in American jobs, American families and efforts to reverse climate change.”
The Senate voted 66-28 on Friday to proceed to the legislative vehicle for the infrastructure package that includes $944 billion in new and baseline spending over five years for highways, public transit, rail and broadband deployment.
That vote came after members of the bipartisan negotiating group announced with much fanfare that they had resolved all their outstanding issues. And yet it proved challenging to translate those agreements into actual legislative language as the hours and then days dragged by without a final product.
Beyond the Senate, the bill’s path to becoming law remains tricky.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., stuck to her position that if the Senate does not pass a budget reconciliation package, she and other progressives will refuse to back the bipartisan infrastructure bill. She and other progressives object to the smaller size of the bipartisan bill, but she also raised concerns about some of its budget offsets.
She described them as pushing the privatization of public infrastructure.
“Bipartisan doesn’t always mean that it’s in the interest of the public good, frankly,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Sometimes there’s a lot of corporate lobbyist giveaways in some of these bills.”