WASHINGTON - The US Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to move forward on a half-trillion dollars in new spending to improve roads, airports and transit.
It includes billions of dollars for the Chicago area, including for replacement of lead water pipes that pose a health hazard to children, in particular.
The proposal also redirects hundreds of billions of dollars previously approved for pandemic relief and other purposes, bringing the total spending on repairs and new infrastructure to about $1 trillion. It also potentially delivers on a key campaign promise by the president.
"I’m working with Democrats and Republicans to get this done," President Joe Biden said. "Because while there's a lot we don't agree on, I believe that we should be able to work together on the few things we do agree on."
Former President Donald Trump reacted angrily, writing, "this will be a victory for the Biden administration and Democrats...and makes the Republicans look weak, foolish, and dumb."
Nonetheless, 17 Senate Republicans voted to open debate on it, including Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants a guarantee senators will also approve $3 trillion more that House Democrats want. Unless they do, she said she might not even call the Senate plan for a vote in the House.
"I can't commit to passing something that I don't even know what it is yet," Pelosi told reporters. "But, I’m hoping for the best."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised to move two plans, "a bipartisan bill focused on traditional brick and mortar projects and a budget reconciliation bill, where Democrats plan to make historic investments in American jobs, American families and efforts to fight climate change."
One cause of delay in the bipartisan negotiations were demands by Democrats for more funding for mass transit systems such as the Chicago Transit Authority. Republicans said the Democrats finally compromised to seal a deal.
"We had offered a very generous offer on transit four days ago, and basically that offer was accepted last night," Senator Rob Portman said.