President Biden on Tuesday touted the bipartisanship forged in the Senate to pass his roughly $1 trillion infrastructure legislation and gave a special shout-out to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for backing his major legislative priority.
"Today we proved that democracy can still work," Biden said during a White House ceremony to mark the monumental vote. "[There’s] a lot more work to do."
"But I want to thank Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for supporting this bill. And I want to give special thanks to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Your leadership, Chuck, in the Senate was masterful," Biden said.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Senate earlier Tuesday passed a major investment into rebuilding the country's roads, bridges, railways and more. The vote was 69-30, with 19 Republicans – including McConnell – joining all Democrats on the landmark bill, which now heads to the House.
McConnell's support was notable since he started off Biden's presidency declaring that "100% of my focus" is about standing up to the Biden administration.
The final passage vote was a culmination of a monthslong rocky effort by a group of bipartisan senators and the White House to show the country that Republicans and Democrats can still work together to fix the nation's crumbling infrastructure.
"Big news, folks," Biden tweeted immediately after the victory. "The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal has officially passed the Senate. I hope Congress will send it to my desk as soon as possible so we can continue our work of building back better."
The new spending in the legislation is partially funded by repurposing some unspent coronavirus funds, but is not fully paid for – as the authors had originally said. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined the legislation would add $256 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.
The federal budget deficit is projected to hit $3 trillion already in the fiscal year 2021 alone, the CBO said, or about $130 billion less than the deficit recorded in 2020 during the start of the coronavirus pandemic response. The national debt sits at more than $28 trillion.
Inside the infrastructure bill, there’s some hidden provisions that have raised some eyebrows, including having new vehicles include drunk driving detection technology and a per-mile user fee pilot program to potentially tax drivers based on mileage.
Separately on Tuesday, Senate Democrats advanced a partisan $3.5 trillion budget proposal that will be the vehicle for liberal priorities such as universal pre-kindergarten, expanded Medicare access, two free years of community college, subsidized child care, legalizing undocumented immigrants and green climate initiatives.
"The two-track strategy is proceeding full steam ahead," Schumer said.
This second spending plan is spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the chairman of the budget committee. Republicans made clear Tuesday they'll make it politically painful for Democrats to pass this second bill, which will not require any GOP support under a process called budget reconciliation.
"[Democrats] want to begin pushing through a reckless taxing and spending spree that was authored by our self-described socialist colleague Chairman Sanders," McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. He said Republicans are going to force tough votes on a series of politically charged amendments starting Tuesday.
"We're going to argue it out right here on the floor at some length," McConnell said. "Every single senator will be going on record over and over and over."
The final passage of the second $3.5 trillion budget blueprint in the Senate in the coming days is critical because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she won't allow a standalone vote on the narrower $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal unless it's paired with the bigger package that liberals have demanded.
Pelosi has the slimmest of majorities in the House, with 220 Democrats to 212 Republicans and three vacancies.
A group of moderate Democrats has urged Pelosi to hold a vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill while raising alarms about the size of the $3.5 trillion bill that they say could fuel inflation. Meanwhile, progressives, led by the so-called Squad, have dismissed the bipartisan plan and insisted their votes are contingent on the passage of the $3.5 trillion package, which would be funded through new tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations.
The narrower $1 trillion bill that passed Tuesday is dubbed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and it allocates spending for roads, bridges, rails, waterways, public transit, power systems, airports and broadband internet access.
The House is currently in summer recess but is expected to take up infrastructure after members return to Washington later this month.