The Capitol Building, the meeting place of the United States Congress, located on Capitol Hill in Washington. File photo
The Senate moved closer to passing a $1 trillion infrastructure package after lawmakers voted to clear a key procedural hurdle to a huge infrastructure bill deemed historic by US President Joe Biden passed on Saturday.
The $1.2 trillion bill, designed to fund much-needed upgrades to US roads, highways, bridges and high-speed internet, drew the support of 18 Republican senators and 49 Democrats, a rare instance of bipartisanship in deeply divided Washington.
The both parties came together as Republican senators joining Democrats to make its final passage in the upper chamber appear nearly certain.
The action soon stalled out as opponents tried to slow the rush to approve one of President Joe Biden’s top priorities.
We can't afford not to do it, US President Joe Biden says on Saturday.
That Republican support — with the party's Senate leader Mitch McConnell among the 18 in favour — will end floor debate on the bill, a procedural step that required 60 votes.
With only 51 votes required for final Senate passage, the vote Saturday greatly improves the bill's chances, although fierce wrangling over amendments is continuing.
The measure would provide a massive injection of federal money for a range of public works programs, from roads and bridges to broadband internet access, drinking water and more.
Senators are meeting for a second consecutive weekend to work on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is the first of Biden’s two infrastructure packages.
Once voting wraps up, senators immediately will turn to the next item on Biden’s agenda, the budget outline for a $3.5 trillion package of child care, elder care and other programs that is a much more partisan undertaking and expected to draw only Democratic support.
The total $1.2 trillion price tag — equal to the 2020 GDP of Spain — includes some funds previously approved but not yet spent.
Making a last-minute plea for passage, Biden tweeted Saturday that the bill represented a "historic, once-in-a-generation investment in our nation's infrastructure."“We can't afford not to do it," he added.
After a marathon, 27-hour weekend session of debate and Republican efforts to derail the package, the Senate approved the legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act by a 51-50 party line vote Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking ballot.
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