Schumer: Bipartisan infrastructure goes to floor next week

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WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Thursday he will file cloture on the legislative vehicle for the bipartisan infrastructure bill Monday and hold the initial vote on motion to proceed Wednesday.

Schumer, D-N.Y., made his announcement even as the bipartisan group of 22 senators is scrambling to iron out final disagreements on the plan. A source familiar with the negotiations expressed doubt that the group would have legislation fully drafted by Monday.

Still, the group is beginning to write the bill, pulling from existing legislation advanced through committee work, including bills approved by the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as part of each panel’s area of jurisdiction over surface transportation.

A third committee, Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, has jurisdiction over transit but has yet to take up its portion of the bill.

An unnumbered energy infrastructure bill advanced by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday could also provide elements of the bipartisan measure, said Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., chairman of that panel.

Meanwhile, the House on July 1 passed a $759 billion, five-year highway bill that House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., said contained key policy provisions sought by President Joe Biden. It’s unclear how much the Senate is drawing from that plan, although lawmakers have worked closely with the House Problem Solvers Caucus for input.

The bipartisan Senate group has been meeting “constantly” in smaller groups throughout Wednesday to work on some of the remaining issues, according to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the group.

While they had set a tentative deadline of Thursday for working out the remaining issues, it became increasingly clear by late Wednesday that the group might miss that deadline, with one source saying there was still much to do.

Once drafted, the legislation also needs to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, which does not yet have the text of a final product. The group has said it plans to have the plan fully paid for through a menu of options. Those include, for example, selling part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, from which the senators hope to generate $6 billion, and auctioning off part of the 5G radio spectrum, which they hope will generate $65 billion, according to an early draft of the framework.

Counting revenue

But lawmakers expressed concern about how the Congressional Budget Office would evaluate one option: increased IRS enforcement, which is hoped to generate $100 billion after an initial investment of $40 billion.

Lawmakers have said they worry that the Congressional Budget Office won’t count that as revenue, which would prevent them from saying the bill is fully paid for.

“They have a convention where they say, unless it’s a specific reporting requirement, they’re hesitant to give you any credit in an official score,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Tuesday. “But they’ll give you the analysis, which, in this place, we’ll use that analysis all the time.”

The deal reached by the bipartisan group and the Biden administration would include $579 billion in new spending, including $109 billion for roads, bridges and major projects; $11 billion for safety; $49 billion for transit; $66 billion for rail; and $7.5 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure, a key Biden priority.

It also includes $1 billion to remove or modify infrastructure that isolated Black and brown communities, another Biden priority that is aimed at advancing racial equity. And it includes $7.5 billion for electric buses and transit.

The plan includes $25 billion for airports, $16 billion for ports and waterways, $55 billion for water infrastructure and $65 billion for broadband. It also includes $21 billion for environmental remediation; $73 billion for power infrastructure, including grid authority; $5 billion for Western water storage; and $47 billion to rebuild infrastructure to endure severe weather events.

In all, the total package would spend $973 billion in new and baseline dollars over five years or $1.2 trillion over eight years, according to the White House.

(Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.)

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