The Senate took the next step Friday to move forward on the bipartisan infrastructure package, after a brief procedural skirmish.
In a 66-28 vote, the Senate advanced the $550 billion agreement on physical infrastructure, even as the final legislative text was still being worked out. While the Senate is plowing ahead, the legislation is far from across the finish line.
Negotiators are still ironing out issues, including on broadband. And once the text is finished, it will be subject to an arduous amendment process.
In his opening remarks Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer predicted that the Senate would move quickly on the bill and suggested that the chamber could stay in during the weekend.
“With the cooperation of our Republican colleagues, I believe we can finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a matter of days,” Schumer said, adding that the legislation is a “massive down payment towards rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure” that “ will benefit our economy for years and decades.”
But in a sign that the process is nowhere near over, Friday’s vote was briefly interrupted after a draft of the legislation began to circulate that Republicans did not support. Republicans are asking for assurances from Schumer that the text will be based on the agreement by a bipartisan group of 10 negotiators.
Before the vote, Schumer and Portman spoke by phone and the New York Democrat assured him that he would use the bipartisan group’s language, according to sources familiar with the call. Schumer has previously promised a vote on the bipartisan bill text first.
In a statement ahead of the scheduled vote, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said the text would be released when it was final. Democratic aides insist that the bipartisan bill will be the eventual legislation that will be voted on.
“When legislative text is finalized that reflects the product of our group, we will make it public together consistent with the bipartisan way we’ve worked for the last four months,” Portman and Sinema said.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), one of the Democratic negotiators, said Friday that broadband remains a problem. "As we’re drafting the language, some issues have come up," she said.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said Friday that "Dems are in disarray," adding: "I keep hearing it’s not done, it’s not baked."
As of 6 p.m. Friday evening, no legislative text had been released and it was not clear if the Senate would vote at all this weekend.
The delayed vote prompted confusion among senators. Earlier this week, 17 Senate Republicans supported considering the bipartisan agreement. But some said Friday that if the legislative text is not what Portman and Sinema agreed to, they would not vote to move forward.
“If it’s not Sinema-Portman, I’m out,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), one of the 17 Republicans.