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$1T Infrastructure Bill Advances In The Senate

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

A nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill has cleared a critical procedural hurdle in the Senate. The 67-27 vote came after a rare weekend session on Capitol Hill and days of wrangling on the Senate floor. Here's Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier today discussing the long slog to wrap up the bill for a final vote.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: We can get this done the easy way or the hard way. It's - in either case, the Senate will stay in session until we finish our work. It's up to my Republican colleagues how long it takes.

MCCAMMON: Now a new set of procedural steps will follow before the Senate votes on final passage. Joining us now to talk about it is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Hello, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: So what does today's vote signal about the path forward for this infrastructure bill?

GRISALES: This is a sign that support is holding in the Senate for this bipartisan deal, and they could approve it in the coming days. Now, again, this is just a procedural vote. Senators are now haggling over a plan to reach an agreement on amendments. And that could involve hours of more debate and procedural moves before they get to the critical vote on whether to approve this bill. And that could happen by Monday or Tuesday.

They'll need 60 votes. So that's all 50 Senate Democrats and at least 10 Republicans. But they've garnered that and more, for example, during today's vote, when 18 Republicans joined Democrats to say yes. And this is all part of a dual-track process where this bipartisan bill addresses physical infrastructure. Democrats hope to soon move to a more ambitious $3.5 trillion spending bill focused on human infrastructure, such as paid family leave, child care and climate change.

MCCAMMON: So things are moving forward bit by bit. What comes next?

GRISALES: So once they get past this bipartisan bill, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says the Senate will move to a process called budget reconciliation so Democrats can take up that partisan $3.5 trillion bill. Now, we should note the Senate was supposed to head into an extended recess next week. So you could say that members are very anxious to wrap all of this up.

But that said, this partisan bill has a very high price tag. Republicans aren't expected to be on board. And it will be quite the test for Democrats to stay together on this legislation's broad and wide-ranging goals. For example, they could include immigration reform in this effort, and they'll need to get all of this passed the Senate parliamentarian because all of these provisions have to have a direct impact on the budget.

Procedurally, Senate Democrats first need to take up a budget resolution to instruct committees to prepare the actual legislation for reconciliation, followed by many more hours of debate and marathon voting sessions known as vote-a-ramas.

MCCAMMON: OK. So, Claudia, that's the Senate. What are the chances for this legislation getting passed in the House?

GRISALES: Well, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been clear she won't take up this bipartisan bill until both that and the Democrats-only bills are ready. She reiterated that stance to reporters yesterday. Let's take a listen.

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NANCY PELOSI: All of these things are urgent, and we're going to get them done together.

GRISALES: We should note the House is on recess and not due back until next month, but it's possible they return early to take up both measures if both are ready. And this is quite the balancing act. Pelosi is working with a very thin majority here in this more-than-400-member chamber, only three votes. So she'll need progressives who want that big $3.5 trillion bill to move, as well as the bipartisan plan that is a major victory for moderates in her party.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thank you, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.