The US Senate has passed a sweeping $1 trillion (€853 billion) infrastructure Bill that will provide hundreds of billions of dollars to upgrade America's crumbling transport systems in a big victory for President Joe Biden and his Democratic party.
Nineteen Republicans, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, joined all of the Democrats in Congress’s upper chamber to back the Bill in a rare display of bipartisanship in a fiercely divided Washington. The Senate, which is split equally between Democrats and Republicans, voted 69-30 in favour of the Bill, with one Republican abstaining.
Senator McConnell said he was “proud” to vote in favour of the deal and “prove that both sides of the political aisle can still come together around common-sense solutions”.
The 2,700-page Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will now be taken up by the House of Representatives, which Democrats control by a slim margin.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will only consider the legislation at the same time as a separate $3.5 trillion budget Bill that contains new social programmes and climate measures, which Democrats intend to pass without Republican support.
The Senate was set to start debating that measure on Tuesday night.
The House, which is in recess, is not likely to return to Washington until September.
Joshua Bolten, chief executive of the Business Roundtable, welcomed the Senate vote and urged the House to "build on this momentum by coming back to Washington to take up the Bill and pass it during this extended recess".
Mr Biden remained committed to passing both the infrastructure Bill and the budget Bill together, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.
The infrastructure Bill will dispense $550 billion in new federal spending over the next five years, upgrading America’s roads, bridges and tunnels, as well as airports, rail networks and the power grid. The proposal also includes investments to improve Americans’ access to broadband and clean drinking water.
The independent Congressional Budget Office published an analysis last week suggesting the package would add $256 billion to the projected national deficit over the next decade.
But the Bill's architects, Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio, have insisted that it will be fully "paid for" with revenue-raising measures, including reallocating some $200 billion in unspent Covid-19 relief money, delaying Medicare rebates and clawing back unused federal funds intended for unemployment insurance.
The Bill also includes a controversial plan to require cryptocurrency transactions to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service, the federal tax collector. The plan is expected to raise almost $30 billion for the treasury, but has sparked outrage among investors and others in the crypto sector who say it will place undue burdens on digital coin miners and software developers.
The bipartisan infrastructure Bill secured significant Republican support despite repeated interventions from Donald Trump, who threatened to withhold endorsements for members of the former US president's party who backed the package.
Mr Trump, who was banned from most social media platforms over his role in the January 6th attacks on the US Capitol, has sought to reassert himself on the political stage ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when control of the House and Senate will be up for grabs.
The former president, who has not ruled out running for the White House again in 2024, issued a statement on Tuesday saying “nobody will ever understand why Mitch McConnell allowed this non-infrastructure Bill to be passed”, calling the Senate’s top Republican “the most overrated man in politics”. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021