Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
August 2, 2021

Senators on Sunday night unveiled the legislative text totaling 2,702 pages of the $1 trillion plus bipartisan infrastructure bill during a rare weekend session as Senators rush to begin the amendment process ahead of an expected vote on final passage by the end of the week.  The legislation would authorize more than half a trillion dollars in new spending to bolster the country’s roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure. The bipartisan infrastructure plan includes $550 billion in new spending on the nation’s physical infrastructure and has been praised by the White House as the largest investment in roads, bridges, ports, water and rail in almost 100 years.  Specifically, the measure provides $110 billion for roads, bridges and major projects, $39 billion for public transit and $66 billion for railways. It also calls for $65 billion for broadband infrastructure deployment and $55 billion for clear water investments. The proposal would be financed through unspent COVID-19 relief funds, targeted corporate user fees and strengthened tax enforcement regarding crypto currencies.  Other offsets include such items as selling off billions of dollars of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve starting in 2028, extending some budget cuts from 2030 to 2031 and delaying a never-implemented prescription drug rebate rule under Medicare.  One item that has drawn fierce opposition in recent days would extend some tax reporting rules to cryptocurrency brokers, a move the Joint Committee on Taxation says would raise $28 billion.  A tax on chemical polluters would also raise an additional $14.5 billion.  In total, the tax-related measures, including the cryptocurrency regulations, would raise $51.1 billion over a decade, according to an estimate from the Joint Committee on Taxation Monday, meaning less than 10% of the total revenue to pay for the roughly $550 billion in new spending comes from tax increases. The remaining revenue offsets will be tabulated by the Congressional Budget Office, which has yet to release its projections.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) will now offer the finalized text as a substitute amendment to the shell that was introduced and then the Senate will start voting on additional amendments.  Democratic leaders remain adamant that the Senate will vote on both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint on human infrastructure before leaving Washington for a scheduled August recess this coming weekend. The budget measure is intended to unlock the caucus’s ability to pass an expansive economic package that will address climate change, health care and education. It is expected to pass with just Democratic votes, although key moderates in the party have signaled they may not support a final package of that size.  The party aims to expand child care and paid leave, boost public health-care subsidies, and make pre-K and higher education more accessible. It also hopes to extend tax credits for families, encourage the adoption of green energy, and make buildings and infrastructure more resilient against climate change.  But the Senate cannot take up the budget blueprint until the chamber is finished working on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. That process is likely to drag into the weekend, as Mr. Schumer has agreed to allow for additional amendments to the legislation. It is unclear how many amendments there will be, or what changes they could cause in the legislation.  Democrats are seeking consent from Republicans to hold three votes Monday on bipartisan amendments to the deal. The amendments are cosponsored by Republican Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds of South Dakota as well as Jerry Moran of Kansas and would need 60 votes to pass.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) sent a warning shot on Monday over the deal, saying that Democrats shouldn’t create an “artificial timeline” and that Republicans want to offer potential changes.

The House is now in its August recess until August 30th, which will be followed by four committee work weeks and will next convene for votes on Monday, September 20th.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.