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Infrastructure deal clears another Senate hurdle as House Democrats threaten rebellion

The agreement appears in good shape in the Senate but faces a murky path to Biden's desk.
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WASHINGTON — The $550 billion infrastructure agreement cleared another Senate hurdle Friday, moving the sweeping package closer to becoming the first big bipartisan win under President Joe Biden.

But it's far from a done deal: The path is murky in the House, where some Democrats are rebelling.

The vote was 66 to 28, signaling broad support in the Senate for a deal led by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to authorize $110 billion for new roads and $39 billion for public transit, among many other provisions.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the chamber was on track to pass the infrastructure deal and a budget resolution to begin work on a separate multitrillion package before leaving for recess in August.

"We may need the weekend, we may vote on several amendments, but with the cooperation of our Republican colleagues, I believe we can finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a matter of days," he said on the floor.

As the vote occurred, senators were still ironing out final text and figuring out an amendment process to complete it. But across the Capitol, there is tension among Democrats about how to move forward in the House.

Moderate Democrats held a press conference Friday calling for a speedy vote in the House. But progressives, along with a key committee chair, are insisting that they won't support it until the Senate passes a separate multitrillion-dollar bill to advance Biden's other priorities.

"First, we've got to get it out of the Senate. Then we'll get it here. There's a thousand permutations of how this could go," Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., told reporters. "When it gets here we should have a standalone vote."

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., said the House should vote on it "as soon as possible."

But Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the chair of the Transportation Committee, said in an interview that the Senate deal was "an imaginary bill" written by senators "who know nothing about transportation."

He said that based on the outlines he has seen, the water provisions were "not good" and that the bill entrenches highway-centric policies that "will not deal with climate change." He added that it should only be considered in the House alongside a separate bill that includes policies to combat climate change.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted that the House won't consider the bipartisan infrastructure deal until the Senate also passes the so-called budget reconciliation bill.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the leader of the progressive caucus, repeated demands that both bills must be sent to the House before a vote is taken.

And Democrats are battling over the parameters of the larger bill.

Sinema said Wednesday she doesn't support the $3.5 trillion price tag that party leaders are targeting, which drew a fierce rebuke from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

"She is threatening to nuke everything — bipartisan deal, reconciliation, all of this — by reneging on an agreement that was already settled several weeks ago," Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview, calling the $3.5 trillion price tag "already too low" and a product of compromise.

With slim majorities in both chambers and no hope of getting Republican support for the multitrillion-dollar package, Democrats have little margin for error.

"We just have to understand that $3.5 trillion was a significant concession," Jayapal said. "At the end of the day, what we're trying to do is make sure we deliver for the American people — on child care, on paid leave, on Medicare, on housing, on climate."