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Senate scrambles to pass infrastructure bill this week after House leaves for August break

The House left Washington on Friday without voting on whether to extend an eviction moratorium, prompting protests from progressive Democrats.
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WASHINGTON — Senators worked through the weekend to prepare the text of an infrastructure package for a vote this week after House members left for their August recess without advancing an extension of the eviction moratorium.

The two measures are just some of the items left unresolved as members packed their bags, prompting protests from progressive lawmakers over the failure to protect millions of renters across the country at risk of eviction even as Covid case numbers continue to surge.

The $550 billion infrastructure deal, which includes many of President Joe Biden's priorities, would inject a windfall of money into a number of transportation projects that have long enjoyed support from both parties. The 2,702-page bill includes measures aimed at reforming Amtrak, “revolutionizing” a transportation grant program and enhancing the electrical grid. Other provisions target drinking water infrastructure, broadband affordability and reducing ferry emissions.

Biden called it "the most important investment in public transit in American history" in a tweet Sunday.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said on CNN's "State of the Union": “So many people have given up on the Senate. They have given up on Congress. They have given up on our ability to be able to do the big things. This is big. This is a big deal.”

The bipartisan bill cleared a major hurdle Friday when the Senate voted to take up the measure even as members were still hashing out the final details. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday that the chamber could finish work on the $1 trillion measure "in a matter of days" before turning to the other major item on his agenda: moving a blueprint for a much more massive $3.5 trillion spending bill to advance the Democrats' agenda on climate, health care and the economy.

Two key moderates in the infrastructure negotiations, Manchin and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in appearances on the Sunday talk shows that they were optimistic that the bill would advance in the next few days. Senators are set to leave for their scheduled August recess at the end of the week.

"I think we will be able to lay down the bill later today and begin perhaps consideration of some amendments," Collins said on "State of the Union." "My hope is that we'll finish the bill by the end of the week."

Manchin also expressed confidence that the measure would pass.

"When you see Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell both voting for the same thing, it's unbelievable," he said in a separate interview on "State of the Union."

"And I will tell you this: Senator Schumer has really been great on this, allowing us to work this process, bringing everybody, trying to get a bipartisan deal, no matter what you might have heard," Manchin said. "He's been working hard, keeping us engaged. Everyone's engaged.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said Sunday that House members are on a 24-hour call-back notice in anticipation of the infrastructure bill's passing in the Senate. She said lawmakers should also return to deal with the extension of the eviction moratorium, which expired Saturday.

"I believe that the expiration of the eviction moratorium and having 11 million Americans — 1 out of every 6 renters — at risk of being kicked out of their homes is worth coming back and triggering that 24-hour notice," she said on “State of the Union.”

Over the weekend, Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., spoke out against the expiration of the eviction moratorium outside the Capitol. Bush, who faced eviction herself and lived in her car with her two children before her career in politics, slept on the Capitol steps to protest the inaction.

Other major elements of the Democrats' agenda, including voting rights and policing legislation, as well as the spending legislation Congress is tasked with trying to pass every year, are among the items lawmakers are still pushing to get done.

Even with the call-back notice for the infrastructure measure, however, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has insisted that the House won't consider the bipartisan infrastructure deal until the Senate also passes the so-called budget reconciliation bill, putting pressure on Schumer to advance both measures.

Pelosi again pledged last week to keep House consideration of the two bills linked.

"I won't put it [infrastructure] on the floor until we have the rest of the initiative," Pelosi told ABC News.