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Schumer Puts Infrastructure Plan on Path Toward Passage (3)

Aug. 6, 2021, 3:56 AM

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved to wrap up a days-long debate on a $550 billion infrastructure package, setting up the Senate for a Saturday vote to approve the largest infusion of cash for roads, bridges and other domestic projects in decades.

Schumer on Thursday teed up a procedural vote on that would limit further debate on the bipartisan measure when the Senate reconvenes on Saturday. Schumer attempted to move more quickly and vote Thursday night, but last-minute disagreements on amendments held up progress.

Chuck Schumer in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 5.
Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Among the unresolved issues is how to modify a provision of the bill dealing with reporting requirements for cryptocurrency transactions for tax collections. The cryptocurrency industry said the original version of the bill unfairly targeted them and was too broad in scope.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and Republican Senators Pat Toomey and Cynthia Lummis proposed a narrower approach focused on those who conduct transactions on exchanges. But an 11th-hour alternative was proposed by Senators Rob Portman, a Republican, and Democrats Mark Warner and Kyrsten Sinema and endorsed by the White House. It would target some software companies and cryptocurrency miners.

“We believe that the alternative amendment put forward by Senators Warner, Portman, and Sinema strikes the right balance and makes an important step forward in promoting tax compliance,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.

Toomey said they were at “an impasse” on the issue.

Another pending amendment would allow state and local governments to use up to 30% of their unspent Covid relief funds on infrastructure projects. GOP Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who sponsored the change with Democratic Senator Alex Padilla, said he bargained with the Biden administration on the change, which would free up between $80 billion and $100 billion for projects. But it has yet to be scheduled for a vote.

The overall legislation includes $110 billion in new spending for roads and bridges, $73 billion for electric grid upgrades, $66 billion for rail and Amtrak, and $65 billion for broadband expansion. It also provides $55 billion for clean drinking water and $39 billion for transit.

The Congressional Budget Office said Thursday that the bill would add $256 billion to the federal deficit over a decade, though negotiators say the nonpartisan agency didn’t give full credit for the package’s offsets.

Read More: CBO Sees Infrastructure Bill Widening Budget Gap by $256 Billion

Passage of the infrastructure package would set the stage for later consideration of President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic package, a partisan drive to overhaul policies on climate change, taxes, health care, immigration and other areas.

Senate Democrats will advance to the Senate in just a few days a fiscal blueprint that helps them trigger a Senate procedure that could short-circuit the filibuster and clear the economic package this fall with only Democratic support.

The infrastructure package still faces challenges in the House, where Democrats can only afford three defectors if Republicans vote in unison against the bill. House Democrats are divided over whether the package spends enough and many Republicans oppose the bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will hold onto the package until the Senate also acts on the larger economic plan, meeting a demand of progressives in her party.

(Updates with vote on Saturday in first two paragraphs)

To contact the reporters on this story:
Steven T. Dennis in Washington at sdennis17@bloomberg.net;
Laura Litvan in Washington at llitvan@bloomberg.net;
Laura Davison in Washington at ldavison4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net

Megan Scully

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.