With a robust vote after weeks of fits and starts, the Senate approved a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan on Tuesday, a rare coalition of Democrats and Republicans joining to overcome skeptics and deliver a cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Watch the vote in the player above.
The 69-30 tally provides momentum for this first phase of Biden’s “Build Back Better” priorities, now headed to the House.
A sizable number of lawmakers showed they were willing to set aside partisan pressures, 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, said Lisa Mascaro, a Congressional Correspondent for the Associated Press.
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.
“It might sound ordinary, but, you know, in these times, some are saying this is historic,” Mascaro said.
“It’s nearly $1 trillion dollars. About half of it, $550 billion, is new spending above and beyond what sort of would normally be appropriated by the Congress.”
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.
There’s money to rebuild roads and bridges, modernize the electric grid, and protect public utility systems from cyberattacks.
Public transit gets a boost, as do airports and freight rail.
Mascaro said many lawmakers who voted in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure bill said they were in part motivated by divisions in America brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and the aftermath of the 2020 election.
“I think there’s a lot of sense among a number of the lawmakers that were voting for this, the senators saying, look, you know, we want to try to sort of show the country that democracy can work,” Mascaro said.
Following the Senate approval of the $1 trillion infrastructure compromise, Democrats started pushing their expansive $3.5 trillion budget resolution, a different measure that looks at expanding healthcare and educational opportunities.
The House is expected to consider both Biden infrastructure packages together, but centrist lawmakers urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the bipartisan plan forward quickly, and they raised concerns about the bigger bill in a sign of the complicated politics still ahead.