US Senate works on weekend on $1 trillion infrastructure bill

WASHINGTON DC (Reu-ters): The U.S. Senate will continue work on Saturday on a bill that would spend $1 trillion on roads, rail li-nes and other infrastruct-ure, as lawmakers from bo-th parties sought to advance President Joe Biden’s top legislative priority.

The ambitious plan has the backing of Democrats and Republicans alike and has already cleared two hurdles by broad margins in the closely divided Senate. Lawmakers could debate the bill through the weekend.

In a sign of the tricky politics involved, a vote to begin debate on the bill was suspended for 45 minutes on Friday as lawmakers questioned how it would affect broadband internet service. The Senate ultimately voted 66-28 to take up the bill, with 16 Republicans joining all 48 Democrats and two independents in support.

The package would dramatically increase the nation’s spending on roads, bridges, transit and airports. Supporters predicted it will ultimately pass the Senate and House of Representatives, eventually reaching Biden’s desk for him to sign it into law.

It includes about $550 billion in new spending, on top of $450 billion that was previously approved. It also includes money for eliminating lead water pipes and building electric vehicle charging stations.

But as of Friday night, the legislation was still being written. Once that task is completed, possibly on Saturday, it will become a starting point from which individual members will offer their amendments.

The bill does not include funding for most climate change and social initiatives that Democrats aim to pass in a separate $3.5 trillion measure without Republican support.

Democrats hold razor-thin margins in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, meaning the party must stick together to achieve its legislative goals.

Progressive members of the House Democratic caucus have already suggested the $1 trillion package is inadequate, and the Senate could likewise impose changes that could complicate its chances of becoming law. But supporters, including Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, have been optimistic about its prospects.

Schumer said he plans to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Democratic climate and social spending bill before senators take their summer break, which was supposed to start in the second week of August.

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