That path is exceedingly murky as Democrats careen toward a tangle of fiscal and political deadlines with no discernible public strategy in place, but party leaders remained publicly sanguine on Wednesday.
Understand the Infrastructure Bill
- One trillion dollar package passed. The Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan infrastructure package on Aug. 10, capping weeks of intense negotiations and debate over the largest federal investment in the nation’s aging public works system in more than a decade.
- The final vote. The final tally in the Senate was 69 in favor to 30 against. The legislation, which still must pass the House, would touch nearly every facet of the American economy and fortify the nation’s response to the warming of the planet.
- Main areas of spending. Overall, the bipartisan plan focuses spending on transportation, utilities and pollution cleanup.
- Transportation. About $110 billion would go to roads, bridges and other transportation projects; $25 billion for airports; and $66 billion for railways, giving Amtrak the most funding it has received since it was founded in 1971.
- Utilities. Senators have also included $65 billion meant to connect hard-to-reach rural communities to high-speed internet and help sign up low-income city dwellers who cannot afford it, and $8 billion for Western water infrastructure.
- Pollution cleanup: Roughly $21 billion would go to cleaning up abandoned wells and mines, and Superfund sites.
“We are on schedule — that’s all I will say,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters after meeting with Mr. Biden for more than an hour. “We’re calm, and everybody’s good, and our work’s almost done.”
But Democrats conceded that the process was painful.
“When you’ve got 50 votes and none to lose, and you’ve got three to spare in the House, there’s a lot of give and take — that’s just the way it is,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who is chairman of the Budget Committee. “It’s tough. But I think at the end of the day, we’re going to be fine.”
At the crux of the stalemate is a leadership commitment to a group of moderate Democrats that the House would take up the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill by Monday. Liberal House Democrats say they will vote down the measure until their priority legislation first clears both the House and Senate.
Those Democrats say the infrastructure bill, which omitted most of their top priorities including major provisions to combat climate change, cannot be separated from the $3.5 trillion package, which contains many of those elements, such as a shift to electric power. Beyond the climate portions, the social policy measure would, among many other things, extend child care and child tax credits, expand free prekindergarten and community college and fortify Medicare.
But key centrists in the Senate have balked at that package, which Democrats plan to push through using a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation that shields it from a filibuster. Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona both voted to begin work on a $3.5 trillion measure, but have since warned they will not support spending that much.
On Wednesday, Mr. Biden urged the holdouts to specify exactly what they would support, so Democrats could coalesce behind a plan that could pass.