Senate Republicans gave Joe Biden a major victory on Saturday when 17 of them voted to allow the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal to proceed to the floor.
The Senate will now begin the process of debating at least 20 amendments to the bill before a final vote will be scheduled. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants the opportunity for Republicans to offer more amendments.
“There are many outstanding amendments that are important that would improve the legislation and deserve votes before the Senate is asked to vote on final passage of the bill,” McConnell said at a press conference.
“The full Senate deserves its full chance to shape this important legislation,” he continued. “I hope senators can work together in a bipartisan way to get more amendments up.”
No matter how many amendments will be debated, the final passage of the legislation seems assured. This despite strident opposition from former president Donald Trump, who called the bill and McConnell’s cooperation to pass it “a disgrace.”
Saturday’s session comes after senators tried, but ultimately failed, to get a deal that would have let them wrap up the bill late Thursday night or early Friday morning. As part of the deal, senators were also trying to set up a marathon session to vote on up to 20 additional amendments making potential changes to the bill.
But first-term Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) blocked the agreement, saying that he couldn’t sign off when the Congressional Budget Office analysis detailing the costs of the bill had just come out on Thursday afternoon.
Senator Hagerty’s objections are well-founded. No one knows exactly how much this bill will cost nor what impact the bill will have on the budget deficit, now expected to top $4 trillion for this fiscal year.
But the real question is why the GOP is doing the president and the Democrats a favor in making them look like statesmen. The “bipartisanship” is only temporary and won’t mean anything in November of 2022.
But those Republicans backing the bill have political reasons to support it, including the fact that a lot of that $1 trillion will be spent in their states.
Seven in 10 Americans back the bipartisan infrastructure proposal, according to a Monmouth University poll that the White House cited in a memo to lawmakers this week. The initiative also has the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade groups, as well as the country’s largest labor unions.
With both parties looking ahead at the 2022 midterm election that will decide control of Congress, several Republicans have calculated there’s more risk in outright obstinacy than occasionally meeting the president in the middle.
Senator John Thune told the Times, “If you’re a Republican, you want to prove that you’re not just here to completely block and stop the entire agenda.” Thune added, “It’d be good maybe for the administration and they probably need a win right about now, but I also think that there are benefits politically to members on both sides.”
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As for the “bipartisanship,” within 24 hours of the passage of this bill, Democrats will begin the long, painful process of trying to pass their $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. Every single Republican and probably at least two Democrats will oppose that bill. Passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill makes it very difficult for Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to vote for the hyperpartisan reconciliation measure since both are on record opposing it.
Most Republicans won’t be happy with the cave-in, but political realities usually outweigh ideology and common sense. The sense of Democratic triumph won’t last long given Biden’s other problems that will likely bury him.