- The Senate voted to push ahead with a bipartisan infrastructure plan, which will start the process of debating and amending the bill.
- The plan is set to put $550 billion in new money into transportation, utilities and broadband.
- Senators voted 67-32 to advance the bill; 17 Republicans and all 50 Democrats voted yes.
- Democrats aim to pass the legislation along with a separate plan to invest in child care, paid leave, education and measures to curb climate change.
The Senate voted Wednesday to advance a bipartisan infrastructure plan, a critical step toward Democrats passing their sweeping economic agenda.
Senators voted 67-32 to push the bill forward; 17 Republicans and all 50 Democrats voted yes.
The vote opens the process to debate and amend the proposal, which would put $550 billion into transportation, broadband and utilities. While senators who backed the procedural motion could oppose a final package, Wednesday's vote bodes well for its chances of passage.
"Despite the popularity of it and the need for it Washington hasn't been able to get it done," said GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the lead GOP negotiator of the deal, after the infrastructure vote. "This time we're going to get it done."
The deal came together earlier in the day after Democratic and Republican negotiators resolved disputes over transit and broadband funding, among other issues. The plan was trimmed from the $579 billion in new spending senators and the White House agreed to last month — a sum many Democrats considered paltry.
Senators have not released final legislation.
Supporters of the bill have hailed it as a needed investment that will boost the economy as the U.S. tries to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats still face a range of pitfalls as they try to get the bipartisan bill and their separate $3.5 trillion spending package to President Joe Biden's desk in the coming months.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will have to keep all 50 members of his caucus and at least 10 Republicans on board to ensure the infrastructure plan passes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will need to win progressive support for the smaller-than-desired bill in a narrowly divided chamber.
A second, separate $3.5 trillion plan to invest in child care, paid leave, education and measures to curb climate change could pose more problems. Every Democrat in the Senate will need to support the package to pass it without Republican votes.
Some Democrats, such as Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have signaled they want a smaller final budget reconciliation bill. Sinema was the lead Democratic negotiator on the bipartisan bill.
Attempts to appease centrists could alienate liberals who worry the bipartisan infrastructure bill fails to do enough to address climate change or strengthen the social safety net.
Schumer aims to pass both the bipartisan bill and the budget resolution that sets up the reconciliation process before the Senate leaves for its recess next month. The Senate will have to rush to pass both measures on Schumer's timeline in an institution not known for speed.
Pelosi has insisted she will not bring the infrastructure bill or budget measure to the House floor until the Senate passes both of them.
After the vote Wednesday, Schumer stressed the Senate is on track to meet his deadline. The chamber's recess starts Aug. 9, but he has said the Senate could stay in session longer in order to pass the measures.
"My goal remains to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget resolution during this work period. Both," he said. "It might take some long nights. It might eat into our weekends. But we are going to get the job done. And we are on track."