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US senators voted to advance a $1tn bipartisan infrastructure spending bill after weeks of painstaking negotiations on Capitol Hill, paving the way for passage of the cross-party compromise championed by president Joe Biden.
In a 67 to 32 vote on Wednesday night, the bipartisan agreement finalised hours earlier by a group of centrist senators and the White House cleared a key legislative hurdle.
It will still need to be approved by the full Senate in a final vote in the coming days, and then in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, before it is enacted into law by Biden.
The bipartisan infrastructure legislation has emerged as top priority for the White House as a key step towards completing the rest of its sweeping economic agenda, a $4tn injection of government investments over the next decade to try to reshape the US economy.
“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things. As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future,” Biden said in a statement before the vote on Wednesday evening.
Steve Ricchetti, one of Biden’s top aides, helped finalise the deal in the final stretch of the negotiations with key centrist lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Rob Portman, the Republican senator from Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic senator from Arizona.
The deal includes $550bn in investments in infrastructure, which will be layered on top of the renewal of existing funding for projects. About $110bn will be used for roads and bridges, $73bn for the electric grid, $66bn for railways, $65bn for broadband networks, and $39bn for public transport — a big sticking point during the talks.
The agreement also includes funding for waterworks, electric buses and electric vehicle charging stations. Republicans had refused to pay for the plan with any new tax increases, as Biden and many Democrats were hoping — but ultimately settled on a panoply of revenue raising measures to finance the package, including strengthening tax enforcement on cryptocurrencies.
The agreement falls short of the expansive investments on climate, education and child care proposed by Biden earlier this year. But the president plans to tackle the remaining elements of his economic agenda, worth about $3.5tn, in separate legislation that would be funded by tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations. He hopes to push that bill through using a special parliamentary procedure that will allow passage with a simple majority of Democrats.
The bipartisan deal had been strongly backed by US business groups, who had lobbied vigorously and even ran television ads in support of the deal.
“Business Roundtable applauds the bipartisan group of Senators and the White House for their leadership on and commitment to reaching an agreement on how to proceed in crafting a bill both sides of the aisle can support — a critical step toward unleashing historic investment in our nation’s physical infrastructure,” said Josh Bolten, president and chief executive of the Business Roundtable, which represents some of America’s largest blue-chip companies.