U.S. Senate makes progress on $1 trillion infrastructure investment bill

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WASHINGTON, Aug 3 - The U.S. Senate made gradual progress on Tuesday on the $1 trillion infrastructure investment bill to upgrade roads, bridges, mass transit and broadband services as Democratic and Republican leaders squabbled over amendments in debate.

The bill https: www.reuters.com world us whats-us senates-bipartisan - 1 trillion infrastructure-water-infrastructure-unisex bill - 2021 -- 08 -- 02, which is signed by President Joe Biden, marked a rare bipartisan effort in a Senate where the two parties split 50-50 between them -

Two days into the debate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Leader Chuck Schumer clashed over the pace of progress on the bill, which appeared headed towards passage but is still open to amendments.

McConnell warned Schumer that Republicans would try to block any effort to cut off debate early, however, and said: My best advice to the majority leader would be slow but steady wins the race.

During long negotiations over the past few months, Republicans have insisted that any new funding in the legislation be paid with money from existing accounts.

Rep. Rob Portman and Democratic Senator Krysten Sinema have released a summary of this decision that $210 billion would be taken from unaccounted COVID 19 aid programs. Some public health officials have expressed concerns over doing this at a time when the Delta variant of the virus is surging.

Other sources include $51 billion if states are delaying Medicare prescription drug regulation and $53 billion by some states that return unused unemployment insurance benefits.

Sinema and Portman said that an analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that the infrastructure investments would produce $46 billion in economic growth over the long term, which would be another source of financing.

As of Tuesday afternoon, three minor amendments had been rejected and three approved. It is not known how many more amendments will be proposed or proposed. The number could determine whether the Senate moves to vote on passage sometime Thursday or may be over the weekend.

Either way, senators were unlikely to be able to start their summer recess next week as scheduled given that Schumer has vowed to debate a budget resolution laying out plans for a $1 trillion human infrastructure bill immediately after passage of the $3.5 trillion bill.

That larger effort is not expected to win support from Republicans, many of whom oppose its major initiatives, including money to address climate change, funding to expand home health for the elderly and protections for some illegal immigrants.

Republican Senator Mike Rounds told reporters that one of the challenges facing the $1 trillion bipartisan bill was poison pill amendments that could potentially unravel the delicately-negotiated measure if approved.

Highlights of the bill include $550 billion in new spending over five years for items such as roads, rail, electric vehicle charging stations and replacing lead pipelines, on top of $450 billion in previously approved funds.

The legislation would be the largest U.S. infrastructure investment in decades. If passed by the House of Representatives, they would not debate it until sometime this fall.

The conservative group Heritage Action for America on Tuesday urged senators to vote against the bill, saying it recklessly spends $1 trillion.