The Senate moved one significant step closer to approving a $1 trillion infrastructure package that is one of President Joe Biden’s top priorities. Senators voted 67-27 to move forward with the bill, easily clearing the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster as 18 Republicans joined Democrats to advance the measure. But hopes for a quick resolution appeared dashed amid disagreements about amendments as Republicans raised objections to the cost of the bill. Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee suddenly took center stage as he said he is “not inclined to expedite this process whatsoever.” Hagerty, an ally of former President Donald Trump, insisted “there’s absolutely no reason to rush.”
Hagerty’s words made it even less clear when the vote will take place and suggested it could really turn into a slog after brief optimism that the whole thing would wrap up quickly. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that while Democrats are eager to hold votes on the amendments, they won’t move the legislation until Republicans make clear there is a path toward final approval of the bill. Still, despite the roadblocks, there seemed to be little doubt that sooner or later the bill would get approved. “We can get this done the easy way or the hard way,” Schumer said. “In either case, the Senate will stay in session until we finish our work. It’s up to my Republican colleagues how long it takes.”
Whether it happens over the weekend or early next week, the approval of the infrastructure bill would still be a big win for Democrats and Biden. But a delay in the infrastructure package could also put off other priorities, including the plans to move forward with a $3.5 trillion* budget deal.
In voting to move forward with the infrastructure package, Republican senators are taking their first major step to break with former President Donald Trump, who issued a statement Saturday blasting the bill hours before the vote. “Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill is a disgrace,” Trump wrote. “If Mitch McConnell was smart, which we’ve seen no evidence of, he would use the debt ceiling card to negotiate a good infrastructure package.” Trump went on to caution that it would be “very hard” for him to endorse anyone who voted in favor of the infrastructure measure. The way in which so many Republicans are defying the former president on this bill “may signal his waning influence on Capitol Hill,” notes the New York Times. For now though, “it is not clear whether it represents anything more than a prominent exception to the rule that the former president still enjoys outsize sway over members of his party.”
Correction: This piece originally misstated that the the budget deal is worth $3.5 billion rather than $3.5 trillion.