Salem Radio Network News Monday, September 27, 2021

Politics

U.S. senators predict passage of infrastructure bill this week, but still waiting for final text

By David Morgan and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate reconvened on Sunday to finalize legislative text and forge ahead with a sweeping $1 trillion spending plan for roads, rail lines, high-speed internet and other infrastructure, with some senators predicting final passage later this week.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the text was “being finalized imminently,” and the Senate could soon start voting on all relevant amendments, finishing the bill “in a matter of days.”

The massive infrastructure package is one of President Joe Biden’s top legislative priorities and would be the largest investment in U.S. roads, bridges, ports, and transit in decades.

It includes $550 billion in new spending on top of $450 billion in previously approved funds and would provide money to replace lead water pipes and build a network of electric vehicle charging stations.

Senator Jon Tester, a key Democratic negotiator on the legislation, told reporters that one potential holdup is a provision over wages. Democrats want to include a decades-old law that would require contractors to pay prevailing wages, typically higher levels set by unions, on projects funded by the legislation.

Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, told CNN that she believes at least 10 Republicans will support the measure, enabling it to clear a 60-vote procedural hurdle.

“My hope is that we’ll finish the bill by the end of the week,” Collins said, adding that the measure is “good for America.”

Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that another procedural vote was possible on Sunday and he was expecting the bill to be passed by Thursday. He said the text of the bill was almost complete.

Final text – including detailed provisions to pay for it – will determine whether a sizeable bipartisan majority in the closely divided Senate can hold up. Senators so far have supported a shell version of the legislation in procedural votes, including a 66-28 margin on Friday that included 16 Republicans.

But Democrats have paired the “hard” infrastructure bill with a much-larger $3.5 trillion “reconciliation” budget bill that would boost spending on education, child care, climate change and other priorities of the party.

Democrats also want to offset the spending with tax increases on corporations and wealthy Americans earning more than $400,000 a year – measures that Republicans oppose.

Democrats may be able to pass the larger bill on their own under special budget rules that allow only a simple majority

Manchin said that while the infrastructure bill should win strong support, he could not guarantee passage of the ‘reconciliation’ bill.

It needed to be fully paid for to avoid a dangerous build-up of debt, he said.

“Let’s see if the pay-fors are for real,” he said, adding that while he could support some tax increases, he was concerned about making the U.S. economy uncompetitive.

Some Democratic progressives, particularly in the House of Representatives, have also suggested the $1 trillion package is inadequate, and the Senate could impose changes that potentially complicate its chances of becoming law.

The Democrats’ majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives are razor-thin, requiring the party to stick together if it wants to achieve its legislative goals.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Ross Colvin and Andrea Ricci)

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