US Senate passes landmark $1tn infrastructure package

The US Senate passed a sweeping $1tn infrastructure bill on Tuesday in a major victory for Joe Biden and congressional Democrats.

Nineteen Republicans, including the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, joined with all Democrats in Congress’s upper chamber to back the bill, which would dole out $550bn in new federal spending over the next five years.

The 69-30 vote was a rare display of bipartisanship in a fiercely divided Washington. The Senate is currently split, 50-50, between Democrats and Republicans.

The 2,700-page Infrastructure Investment & 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 would only consider the legislation at the same time as a separate $3.5tn budget bill that contained new social programmes and climate measures, which Democrats intend to pass without Republican support. The Senate is expected to start debating that measure later on Tuesday. The House, which is currently in recess, is not likely to return to Washington until the autumn.

Joshua Bolten, chief executive of the Business Roundtable, welcomed the Senate vote on Tuesday 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”.

“It is time to finish the job and deliver for the American people,” Bolten added.

The infrastructure bill allocates billions of dollars to upgrade 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 late last week suggesting the package would add $256bn 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 a series of revenue-raising measures, including reallocating some $200bn in unspent Covid-19 relief money, delaying planned Medicare rebates and clawing back unused federal funds originally intended for unemployment insurance.

Sinema and Portman said the CBO analysis did not take into account all of the ways the bill would offset costs in the medium and long term.

The bill also includes a controversial plan to require information about cryptocurrency transactions to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service, the federal tax collector. The plan is expected to raise almost $30bn 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.

Trump, who was banned from most social media platforms over his role in the January 6 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”.

But McConnell and 18 other Republicans, including Trump ally Lindsey Graham, shrugged off the threats. 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”.