With a robust vote after weeks of fits and starts, the Senate approved a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan on Tuesday, a rare coalition of Democrats and Republicans joining to overcome sceptics and deliver a cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
The 69-30 tally provides momentum for this first phase of Biden’s “Build Back Better” priorities, now headed to the House.
A sizeable number of lawmakers showed they were willing to set aside partisan pressures, eager to send billions to their states for rebuilding roads, broadband Internet, water pipes and the public works systems that underpin much of American life.
Infrastructure was once a mainstay of lawmaking, but the weeks-long slog to strike a compromise showed how hard it has become for Congress to tackle routine legislating, even on shared priorities.
“There’s been detours and everything else, but this will do a whole lot of good for America,” said Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer.
The outline for Biden’s bigger $3.5 trillion package is next up for the Senate — a more liberal undertaking of child care, elder care and other programmes that is much more partisan and expected to draw only Democratic support.
Tuesday’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act started with a group of 10 senators who seized on Biden’s campaign promise to draft a scaled-down version of his initial $2.3 trillion proposal, one that could more broadly appeal to both parties in the narrowly divided Congress, especially the 50-50 Senate.
It swelled to a 2,700-page bill backed by the President and also business, labour and farm interests.