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Politics

Infrastructure Agreement Advances, But It's Not A Done Deal

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

A bipartisan infrastructure package cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate last night after 17 Republicans, along with 50 Democrats, voted to begin debate on the bill. President Biden praised the vote.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: While there's a lot we don't agree on, I believe that we should be able to work together on the few things we do agree on.

MCCAMMON: But to be clear, senators only voted to begin debate. They have not finished writing the legislation. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis joins us now with more. Hi, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: OK. So remind us - what's actually in this package?

DAVIS: Well, it's going to spend about $1.2 trillion over the next eight years. About half of that is in new spending. It's money for what lawmakers have been calling hard infrastructure. There's more than $100 billion in there to spend on roads. There's a big infusion of money for transit systems, including $66 billion for one of President Biden's personal priorities, the Amtrak rail system he rode for decades as a Delaware senator. It's also got a lot of money for clean energy programs. It's going to expand high-speed internet access that could benefit a lot of rural and tribal communities. And Biden also touted how it's going to replace all of the nation's lead pipe systems, which often predominantly affect poorer communities and communities of color.

MCCAMMON: But still a lot of work to do - they still have to write this bill. What happens after that?

DAVIS: Well, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says it'll take days, not weeks, to wrap up this bill. We're still waiting on final legislative text and possible amendments in the Senate, but 17 Republicans voting for it last night is a pretty clear sign they're going to have the votes they need to ultimately pass it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday said she's not going to bring it to the floor for a vote until the Senate also passes a resolution to start the ball rolling on a $3.5 trillion budget package that Democrats are planning to move without Republican support using a special budget process.

There's also some grumbling from House Democrats about the infrastructure deal. They didn't really have much of a role in shaping this. But with the White House signed off, it's going to be really hard to make any fundamental changes to it. Most Democrats are really just focused on this next budget deal, which would include major new government programs like expanding Medicare, paid family leave, universal pre-K education. And that bill is really going to dominate the fall agenda in Congress.

MCCAMMON: NPR's Susan Davis. Thank you so much.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.