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Senate negotiators finalize bipartisan infrastructure bill

A group of senators finalized legislative language Sunday evening for the long-awaited bipartisan physical infrastructure deal, bringing the Senate one step closer to passing a top priority for President Joe Biden.

The finished product comes after Senate negotiators and their staff worked throughout the weekend on text for the bipartisan agreement, which includes $550 billion in new spending on roads, bridges, highways, broadband and water infrastructure.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday evening took the next procedural step to move the legislation forward, predicting it would pass the chamber in a “matter of days.” But first it will need to go through an arduous amendment process.

“It’s been decades since Congress passed such a significant standalone investment and I salute the hard work done here by everybody,” Schumer said. “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.”

The bipartisan infrastructure bill comes as Senate Democrats are also planning to pass a budget blueprint for a $3.5 trillion social spending package. Schumer has vowed to pass both measures before the Senate leaves for the August recess.

The Senate Democrats and Republicans who negotiated the bipartisan package took to the floor Sunday evening to celebrate the official introduction of the legislation. The group, led by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), had reached an agreement with the White House back in June on a bipartisan framework. But translating that agreement into legislative text proved challenging and took several weeks.

While Sinema acknowledged Sunday evening that the process was “difficult” and “long,” she added it was “what our forefathers intended.”

“This very process of finding bipartisan compromise and working together to achieve the objectives that the American people are depending upon us to do is the very heart and very core of why each of us serve in this government,” Sinema said. “It is why I ran for office.”

Portman, meanwhile, declared that “this process of starting from the center out has worked.” He reiterated that the bipartisan bill focused on “core infrastructure” and would not raise taxes, meeting the two conditions Republicans set.

While all 50 Senate Democrats voted in favor of moving forward, the legislation has divided the Senate Republican conference. A total of 18 Senate Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, supported advancing the legislation last week and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the GOP negotiators, predicted on CNN Sunday that at least 10 Republicans would support final passage.

Many GOP senators have said they want to see final bill text and a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office before making a final decision. Others have questioned why Senate Republicans would support a bipartisan package, when Democrats have made clear that they will move forward with their social spending package regardless.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), another GOP negotiator, addressed that argument Sunday evening, emphasizing that the bipartisan package was a separate effort.

“I know members of both parties have mischaracterized our efforts as somehow linked to paving the way to the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion wish list,” Romney said. “If you don’t think our Democrat friends are going to push for that monstrosity with or without this bill then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. They’re going to push for that anyway.”

Even as Schumer and negotiators are predicting the Senate could be done with the bipartisan bill by the end of the week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has publicly and privately committed to holding the physical infrastructure bill until the House receives the $3.5 trillion social spending package.

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