Leaving the Senate floor on Sunday, Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, told reporters: “We’re doing it the old-fashioned way.”
The bipartisan package was in part born of a desire in both parties to show that the old-fashioned way in the Senate can, in fact, work. The 10 Republicans and Democrats who spearheaded the deal wanted to offer a counterpoint to progressives who have insisted that the only way to accomplish big, important policy goals in the current political environment is to scrap the filibuster rule. That would mean getting rid of the need to muster 60 votes to take up most major legislation, and allowing bills to be pushed through with brute force, on a simple majority vote.
As the infrastructure bill inches toward passage, those liberals have made their discontent with it plain. And Democratic leaders do not intend to stick with the old-fashioned way for very long: As soon as the sprawling measure passes, they plan to turn to partisan votes to try to pass their $3.5 trillion budget plan and voting rights legislation.
“Lots of people have lots of needs and views in our caucus, lots of needs in the country, some can be done bipartisan, some can’t,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said in a brief interview on Sunday, after warning his colleagues that they could finish the bill “the easy way, or the hard way.” “And if you told the caucus there would only be bipartisan or never be bipartisan, you’d probably get nothing done.”
It’s the second time this year Mr. Schumer has kept the Senate in a marathon floor amendment process to get a big, bipartisan piece of legislation accomplished. The first was legislation authorizing nearly a quarter-trillion dollars over the next five years into scientific research and development to bolster competitiveness against China.
His staff has proudly kept a running tally of amendments voted on during this Congress, which they say is now nearly triple the amount allowed under the final year that Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, led the chamber. Twenty-two amendments have so far been considered for the bipartisan bill.
The marathon process has given Democratic senators up for election in 2022 — including Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada — a chance to burnish their bipartisan credentials in swing states by introducing amendments with Republican co-sponsors.