The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives approved a $715 billion surface transportation and water infrastructure bill on Thursday, July 1 in what Democrats see as an early step toward sweeping infrastructure legislation that Congress hopes to complete in September.
The bill, which includes provisions from President Joe Biden's initial $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, authorizes additional spending for roads, bridges, highway safety, electric vehicle charging stations, rail, transit, drinking and wastewater infrastructure.
It also funds programs that would provide money for major projects, including an $11.6 billion plan to connect New Jersey and New York's Penn Station in midtown Manhattan via four modern transportation tubes beneath the Hudson River.
The 221-201 vote sent the legislation to the Democratic-led Senate.
Senate Democrats announced a top-line budget proposal Tuesday, July 13. The proposal sets an overall limit of $3.5 trillion for the array of Democratic policy goals that are unlikely to make it into a bipartisan infrastructure deal if Congress can reach one. If the budget resolution can clear both chambers with lockstep party support, it would circumvent a GOP filibuster using the reconciliation process, the same move that Democrats used to pass the president’s $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package in March.
Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee reached agreement on the overall total for a spending plan during their second meeting this week with Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (NY) and White House officials in the Capitol. Their next step is ensuring all 50 Democratic caucus members can support the $3.5 trillion figure.
The budget resolution will require backing from every Democrat to make it through the upper chamber and officially kick off reconciliation, which will formally instruct various committees to turn the president’s priorities into legislative text.
Democrats’ package is expected to include policies like Biden’s proposal for two years of free community college, paid leave, health care subsidies, extending the boosted child tax credit and helping families cover childcare costs.
Meanwhile, negotiations on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, which would require support from at least 10 Senate Republicans, are starting to get shaky amid GOP concerns over spending and ways to finance the legislation.
Embarking again on a reconciliation bill will be arduous and painful for Democratic lawmakers. The process involves enduring two more voting sessions in the Senate, each of which will allow Republicans to add amendments.
The Senate parliamentarian, who serves as the chamber’s nonpartisan procedural enforcer, is also expected to shoot down parts of the proposal that are found to be out of bounds under the special budget process.