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Biden's two-track infrastructure push keeps chugging along

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Construction of the new Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project
Construction workers on the Sixth Street Viaduct in Los Angeles on April 15, 2021.Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and the 50-50 divided U.S. Senate are now on the cusp of their first real bipartisan achievement — $550 billion in new spending on roads, rail, transit and other hard infrastructure.

“The Senate voted 67-32 to begin debate on the measure, getting 17 Republicans to sign on, more than the 10 needed to break a filibuster,” NBC’s Capitol Hill team reports, though they add that final passage isn’t assured and could take until the weekend.

If it holds, it will be a victory for Biden and the presidency he promised. It also will be a reminder that if you have enough people who want to get a deal done, you can get a deal.

A month ago, we said that Biden faced three possible derailments to his two-track infrastructure push. But for now, it looks he’s avoided — or is on track to avoid — all three.

Derailment #1 was a revolt by conservatives — that they would sink any bipartisan deal. A month later, however, conservative media and commentators were never fired up on the issue. And it wasn’t until the end that Donald Trump opposed the infrastructure deal, but even that opposition was half-hearted and vague.

Also don’t forget about Biden’s damage control to reassure GOP senators who were upset that he wouldn’t sign a bipartisan infrastructure without a Democratic-only reconciliation bill as well. It looks like he succeeded.

Derailment #2 was the on the Democratic side — that the consensus between progressives and moderates would unravel. Here, the key player was the Senate Budget Committee, which is run by Bernie Sanders but includes moderates like Mark Warner. They agreed last month on a $3.5 trillion spending framework to pass through reconciliation that would include a wide range of others progressive priorities, from climate to health care to education. That's less than the $6 trillion Sanders wanted and even less than what House progressives want, but it's in line with President Biden's jobs and family plans.

There were also key procedural maneuvers to keep the peace between left and center. Speaker Pelosi, for instance, threatened not to pass the Senate's infrastructure bill unless they reach a deal on the larger reconciliation bill first, raising tensions with Republicans, but reassuring progressives they wouldn't get played.

Derailment #3 was the great unknown — that something could happen to the Dems’ fragile majorities. That, for now, has been avoided.

But there are still big fights ahead. The $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan is only a loose outline for now that will take months to fill in. For one thing, there's no guarantee it stays $3.5 trillion, and finding enough revenue and savings to pay for it could be difficult. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said in a statement Wednesday that she wanted to spend less (by how much is unclear) drawing a sharp rebuke from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Yet so far, Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi have their party on board with passing an infrastructure deal and then voting to advance a major Democrat-only spending deal that includes something for every wing of the party.

The original two-track plan from a month ago is chugging along as they hoped.

Trump loses — again

Yesterday, we told you about Donald Trump’s rough Tuesday.

The Jan. 6 committee got off to a credible start.

And the candidate he backed in the Texas-06 runoff lost.

Now you can add another defeat for Trump — when he tried to convince Republicans to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“Don’t do it Republicans — Patriots will never forget!” Trump said in a statement yesterday. “If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way!”

As we wrote yesterday, an out-of-office Trump doesn’t have as much power as the conventional wisdom suggests.

But the bipartisan infrastructure bill also represented a defeat for the progressive left, which was never keen on this deal or on Biden’s overtures to Republicans in the first place.

(And we’ll be watching next week’s special congressional primary in Ohio to see if progressives suffer another defeat.)

So much of the current focus in Washington politics has been fixed on Trump Republicans and progressive Democrats.

But the folks who got the bipartisan deal done aren’t in either camp.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

8.2: The preliminary magnitude of the earthquake that hit Alaska, the largest to hit the state since 1965, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

$5.7 million: How much has been raised by the Arizona “election audit.”

3,865: The number of new, daily Covid cases in Tokyo, a record-breaking total for the third-straight day.

Almost 45 percent: The decline in Americans in poverty since 2018, according to a new study analyzed by the New York Times.

34,705,335: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

615,427: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News.

343,361,524: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 753,984 since yesterday morning.)

49.3 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

60.2 percent: The share of all American adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Google and The Washington Post are among the major companies that have recently announced vaccine mandates.

Despite America’s head start, Canada’s share of fully vaccinated people has eclipsed that of the U.S., while the European Union’s vaccination rate has, too.

Senate Democrats are revising their voting rights bill in the hopes of making another push on the legislation.

NBC News is reporting that the Texas House Democrats who fled the state to block new voting restrictions are meeting virtually with the Clintons and Georgia voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams on Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal reports that America is planning to sanction Iran over concerns about drones and guided missiles.

Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that those infected with the delta variant can have large viral loads, experts want to see the data behind that claim.

The Washington Post reports that former President Trump called Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen “nearly every day at the end of last year to alert him to claims of voter fraud or alleged improper vote counts.”