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Senators on left, right hold together to push infrastructure

“Look at the players,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. “These are not the fringes of both parties.”

SNS | WASHINGTON |

Democrats and Republicans are unperturbed by the gale of criticism over the $1 trillion infrastructure package towards the final passage.

On the left, the Democrats have withstood the complaints of liberals who say the proposal falls short of what’s needed to provide a down payment on one of President Joe Biden’s top priorities.

From the right, the Republicans are largely ignoring the criticism from their most conservative and far-flung voices, including a barrage of name-calling from former President Donald Trump as he tries to derail the package.

All told, some 70 senators appear poised to carry the bipartisan infrastructure bill to passage.

“This is something that brings this country together,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a lead negotiator. “We need the investment, let’s be honest.”

Senators hoisted the package over another hurdle late Sunday, easily clearing a remaining 60-vote threshold on a vote of 68-29, despite a few holdouts trying to run out the clock on debate and drag final passage to Tuesday. The measure would then go to the House.

“A very handsome, overwhelming vote,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The rare bipartisan momentum reflects a political power center that has sprung from the middle of the aisle in the narrowly split Congress.

Backed by Biden and a sizable coalition of business, farm, labour and public interest groups, the package is one of the biggest investments of its kind in years. Some 20 Republican senators are poised to join Democrats in supporting support it.

“Look at the players,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. “These are not the fringes of both parties.”

Once voting wraps up, senators immediately will turn to the budget outline for a $3.5 trillion package of child care, elder care and other programmes that is a much more partisan undertaking and expected to draw only Democratic support.

Despite the momentum, action ground to a halt over the weekend when Sen. Bill Hagerty, a Tennessee Republican allied with Trump, refused to speed up the process.

Hagerty, who had been Trump’s ambassador to Japan, argued for taking as much time as needed for debate and amendments, in part because he wants to slow the march toward Biden’s $3.5 trillion bill aimed at so-called soft infrastructure.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has so far allowed the bill to progress, calling the bill “a compromise.”

More amendments have been offered on cryptocurrency, defense-related infrastructure and to allow states to repurpose a portion of their untapped federal Covid-19 relief aid for infrastructure. But it’s unclear if they will be considered for votes.

Senators have found much to like in the bill, even though it does not fully satisfy liberals, who view it as too small, or conservatives, who find it too large.

The House is expected to consider both Biden infrastructure packages when it returns from recess in September.