WASHINGTON (AP) — With a robust vote after weeks of fits and starts, the Senate approved a $1 trillion infrastructure plan for states coast to coast on Tuesday, as a rare coalition of Democrats and Republicans came together to overcome skeptics and deliver a cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Watch Biden’s remarks in the video player above.
“Today, we proved that democracy can still work,” Biden declared at the White House, taking note of the 69-30 vote that included even Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
The approval provides momentum for the first phase of Biden’s “Build Back Better” priorities, now heading to the House. It also sets the stage for a much more contentious fight over his bigger $3.5 trillion package that is next up in the Senate — a more liberal undertaking of child care, elder care and other programs that is much more partisan and expected to draw only Democratic support. That debate is expected to extend into the fall.
A sizable number of lawmakers showed they were willing to set aside partisan pressures for now, eager to send billions to their states for rebuilding roads, broadband internet, water pipes and the public works systems that underpin much of American life.
Infrastructure was once a mainstay of lawmaking, but the weeks-long slog to strike a compromise showed how hard it has become for Congress to tackle routine legislating, even on shared priorities.
“We can still come together to do big things, important things, for the American people.,” Biden said.
There was Republican praise, too, though less exuberant.
“This infrastructure bill is not the perfect bill,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, one of the negotiators. She said the senators kept at it, believing, “It’s better to get some of what our constituents want rather than none of it.”
Tuesday’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act started with a group of 10 senators who seized on Biden’s campaign promise to draft a scaled-down version of his initial $2.3 trillion proposal, one that could more broadly appeal to both parties in the narrowly divided Congress, especially the 50-50 Senate.
It swelled to a 2,700-page bill backed by the president and also business, labor and farm interests. It drew an expansive alliance of senators and a bipartisan group in the House.