Senate Plans Votes on Infrastructure Over the Weekend
A final vote on the bill could come as early as Saturday afternoon, or senators could consider additional changes to the measure, pushing the debate into next week.,
Senators pause for a funeral, with plans to return for weekend votes on the infrastructure bill.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, in the Capitol on Thursday.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
By Glenn Thrush
Aug. 6, 2021, 1:31 p.m. ET
Presidencies are governed by events and priorities, and President Biden — propelled into office by epochal events in 2020 — has staked his political fortunes on passage of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill intended to demonstrate his competence, can-do attitude and commitment to bipartisanship.
On Friday, the capital paused on the cusp of fulfilling one of Mr. Biden’s top first-year legislative priorities to mark the passing of former Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, a conservative who retired last year and who died from injuries sustained in a biking accident. He was 77.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, and several other senators traveled out West on Friday for the funeral service in an auditorium located on Enzi Drive in his hometown, Gillette. The group planned to return to Washington for what is expected to be a series of votes on the package over the weekend.
After a round of wrangling on Thursday, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, announced plans to hold a critical procedural vote on Saturday on the measure, which includes a massive infusion of federal funding for the country’s aging public works system.
About an hour after the Senate convenes at 11 a.m. Eastern on Saturday, the chamber is expected to take up the first of two expected test votes, in which the support of at least 60 senators is needed to end debate. A final vote on the bill could come as early as that afternoon, or senators could consider additional changes to the measure, pushing the debate into next week and delaying the Senate’s summer recess.
Aides from both parties said they believe the Senate measure will almost certainly pass at some point.
The question is whether Mr. McConnell or other Republicans will insist on allowing debate to drag on for the 60 hours permitted under Senate rules.
Over the past week, the Senate debated and voted on 22 amendments, some of them bipartisan measures that passed with 60 or more votes, a positive sign for overall passage of the bill.
Mr. McConnell has not fully endorsed the legislation, but he has not blocked it either and he has suggested he might ultimately be in favor.
“There’s an excellent chance it will be a success story for the country,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
The bill cleared an important political hurdle on Thursday: There appeared to be no significant erosion of Republican support following an estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that found that the legislation would swell the deficit. The office calculated that nearly half of the new spending — $256 billion — would be financed by adding to the nation’s debt from 2021 to 2031, contradicting the claims of Republican and Democratic proponents that the measure would fully pay for itself.
The flurry of activity came after three days of plodding work on the package, which would devote $550 billion in new money to rebuild the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and rail systems and fund new climate resiliency and broadband access initiatives.
The Democrats’ goal is to vote on the infrastructure bill quickly, then proceed to a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that will contain many of the progressive policy priorities that were omitted from the bipartisan plan, including major expansions of education, health care, child care and paid leave programs, as well as measures to confront climate change.