The Senate on Friday voted to start debate on the $550 billion infrastructure proposal negotiated by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, clearing another procedural hurdle in the long and still uncertain journey to becoming law.
The vote was 66-28, with all 50 Democrats and 16 Republicans – including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – voting in favor of advancing the measure.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the package “a massive down payment towards rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure,” and said the Senate may stay in session through the weekend to push the bill forward.
A last-minute snag delayed the vote Friday morning. The bill still has no formal text, and lawmakers are voting on a shell that will be swapped out for legislative language once it is finished. But a supposed draft of the bill circulating on Capitol Hill contained language that upset some Republicans, who were reassured that the draft did not reflect the latest version of the bill.
“There are different versions of the language that apparently are floating out there, none of them are accurate,” Republican Sen. Rob Portman (OH) said before the vote. Deeply involved in making the deal on infrastructure, Portman said he had received “personal assurances” that the final text would reflect the agreement reached by the bipartisan negotiators.
What’s next: Schumer said he hopes the Senate will vote on the bill next week. Passage will require 60 votes, and not all the Republicans who voted to allow debate will necessarily support the bill. Further complicating matters, the fate of the infrastructure package appears to be inseparable from the fate of the $3.5 trillion spending package Democrats hope to pass as a companion piece via budget reconciliation. Expect to see plenty of fireworks ahead.