US Senate moves forward with bipartisan infrastructure plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate on Wednesday agreed to advance a bipartisan infrastructure plan hours after negotiators reached an agreement with the White House.

Seventeen Republicans joined the Senate Democratic caucus in the 67-32 vote; Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. — who had leading roles in separate infrastructure talks — supported the motion.

The White House and senators agreed to decrease new spending from $579 billion in an earlier legislative framework to $550 billion. The proposal dedicates $110 billion toward road and bridge projects, $55 billion for drinking water infrastructure, $65 billion toward high-speed internet, and $73 billion in clean energy transmission. According to the White House, the proposal would be funded by redirected coronavirus relief money, targeted corporate user fees and stronger tax enforcement on cryptocurrencies among other actions.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (Office of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin)

“The more we continue to do things such as this, the more you’ll see more bipartisanship,” Manchin said alongside a bipartisan group of senators following the vote.

“That pothole doesn’t have a Democrat or Republican’s name on it. It will bust your tire. It don’t care who you are. That bridge could fall in on you. It could be your child or someone else’s.”

Manchin is part of the bipartisan group that drafted the proposal after talks between the Biden administration and Senate Republicans fell apart. President Joe Biden and the bipartisan group announced last month they reached an agreement on an infrastructure framework, but it took a month for both sides to finalize details.

“People know that it is needed, and Washington has known that for years. Every president in modern times has proposed a major infrastructure investment,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters.

“Washington hasn’t been able to get it done,” he added. “This time, we’re going to be able to get it done.”

Capito led negotiations between Senate Republicans and the White House, which ended in June after both sides could not reach agreements on generating revenue and the plan’s scope. She also serves as the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which approved a $35 billion measure on water infrastructure and a $311 billion surface transportation proposal earlier this year.

“I am glad to see the bipartisan group’s infrastructure legislation focuses on the core elements of infrastructure. Just as important, the bipartisan group’s package is built around our two bipartisan and unanimously committee-passed bills,” Capito said.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. (File)

Funding from both bills will go toward various projects including the construction of the Appalachian Development Highway System, a network of corridors connecting Appalachian communities to interstates. Corridors D, E, G, H, L and Q in West Virginia are part of the system.

“After reviewing some of the legislative text of the bipartisan infrastructure package and ensuring West Virginia’s and the nation’s core infrastructure needs will be addressed, I plan to support the procedural vote to move this package forward,” Capito said before the vote.

Sen. Kevin Kramer, R-N.D., thanked the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for approving infrastructure legislation earlier this year in a bipartisan manner.

“This stuff happens a lot more than people would know, and I wish that they knew it more often,” he said. “I know it’s not sexy to get along, but there’s a lot more of it that happens than you might think.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY., on Wednesday repeated his goal of the Senate passing the bipartisan infrastructure deal and a resolution on a broad $3.5 trillion plan before senators leave for August recess. The Senate will consider the second proposal under reconciliation, which allows senators to pass a bill with 51 votes.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., told The Arizona Republic she does not support the $3.5 trillion proposal, which includes funding for Medicare expansion and efforts addressing climate change. Sinema was one of the leaders in bipartisan discussions.

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