- The U.S. Senate will likely spend the weekend taking over its $550 billion infrastructure bill after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's attempt to rush passage late Thursday was thwarted by disagreements on cryptocurrency and other matters.
Senators huddled on and off the floor for hours to discuss final changes to legislation that numbers some 2,702 pages and has been the subject of weeks of negotiations with the White House. But agreement proved elusive and the final passage of the massive bill was pushed until at least Saturday.
The bill is a key element of President Joe Biden’s agenda and the White House was directly involved in the negotiations. On Friday, he urged lawmakers to follow through, saying the legislation would create years of gridlock in Washington and end millions of good-paying jobs.
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 claimed the original version of the bill unfairly targeted them and was too broad in scope.
The Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden and Republican Senators Pat Toomey & Cynthia Lummis proposed narrower approach that focused on those who conduct transactions using exchanges. Democrats Steve Martin, a Republican, and senators Mark Warner and Kyrsten Sinema proposed an 11th hour alternative to Rob Portman endorsed by the White House. It will also target some cryptocurrency mining companies and software players.
'We believe the alternative amendment presented by Senators Warner, Portman and Sinema strikes the right balance and makes an important step forward in supporting tax compliance, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.
Toomey said that they are at an impasse on this issue.
Another pending amendment would allow state and local governments to use up to 30% of their unspent Covid relief funds for infrastructure projects. Democratic Senator Alex Padilla, who sponsored the change with Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, said he agreed with Biden Administration about the change that would free between $80 billion and $100 billion for projects. It has yet to be scheduled for the vote.
Schumer and Senate Republicans spent hours attempting to reach an agreement on how many other amendments would be considered before the voting on the legislation.
'We have been trying to vote on amendments all day but have encountered numerous objections from the other side, said Schumer at the Senate floor just before midnight. 'However, we very much want to finish important bill, so will reconvene Saturday.
"Everybody's in a bad mood in there, California Democrats Senator Dianne Feinstein said as she left Wednesday night. She left the floor late.
The bill includes $100 billion in new investment for roads and bridges, $73 billion for electric grid upgrades, $66 billion for rail and Amtrak, and $55 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, although negotiators say the agency didn't give full credit for the package's offsets.
The nearest the vote could be held under Senate procedures is Saturday. Many senators left Wyoming early Friday to attend the funeral of former GOP Senator Mike Enzi from Washington who died after a bicycle accident last week.
Passage of the infrastructure package would set the stage for later consideration of 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 in just a few days to the Senate a fiscal blueprint that helps them trigger a Senate procedure that can short-circuit the filibuster and clear the economic package with only Democratic support this fall.
The Infrastructure Package still faces obstacles in the House, where Democrats can afford only three defectors if Republicans vote in unity against the bill. House Democrats are divided over whether the package spends enough and many Republicans oppose the bill.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed Friday that House won't take on infrastructure legislation until the Senate passes a second, more sweeping economic package. That linkage has been a central demand of progressive Democrats in the House, though progressives have been calling Pelosi to stop with them. House is currently sitting on recess until Sept. 20.
We are not going forward with leaving people behind, Pelosi told a news conference.