A bipartisan group of senators voted to move forward on a compromise infrastructure bill on Wednesday, a significant step toward achieving a major item on President Joe Biden’s agenda.
All Democrats voted in favor of moving forward with the infrastructure proposal, as did 17 Republicans. Among the GOP senators were key negotiators Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Bill Cassidy (La.).
The deal came together midday Wednesday after weeks of meetings and broken deadlines, with talks seemingly on the brink of collapse and finger-pointing by both sides only days earlier.
But on Wednesday, Republicans announced they reached a compromise with Senate Democrats and the White House on an infrastructure bill that includes $550 billion in new spending, slightly less than they had initially discussed a month ago. The agreement came after a lengthy meeting between Portman and White House adviser Steve Richetti, one of Biden’s most trusted aides.
“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things. As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future,” Biden said in a statement.
“Of course, neither side got everything they wanted in this deal. But that’s what it means to compromise and forge consensus—the heart of democracy,” he added.
The compromise invests more than $175 billion toward building and repairing roads, bridges and railroads; $39 billion on public transportation; and $65 billion on expanding access to high-speed internet. It includes tens of billions more to improve electric and power grids, and making school buses and ferries more environmentally friendly.
Although Wednesday’s procedural vote allows the Senate to begin debate on the infrastructure bill, its final passage remains uncertain. Several senior Democrats expressed concerns with the deal after a lengthy caucus meeting on Wednesday, telling reporters they’d like to see further changes.
“Work in progress,” is all Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said when asked about the measure.