Senators vote on amendments to infrastructure bill as recess looms

By Jack Birle | The Center Square

Senators voted on several amendments to the bipartisan infrastructure bill Thursday, the latest development for President Joe Biden’s flagship legislation.

Lawmakers approved amendments which would establish safety standards for certain types of limousines, modify cybersecurity measures in the bill and promote transparency of government broadband funding, among other actions.

“As we have seen from the damaging SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange attacks, a whole-of-government approach is necessary to protect critical infrastructure,” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said on the Senate floor regarding his amendment to modify cybersecurity measures in the bill. “This amendment will ensure that there is a comprehensive approach that effectively coordinates our cybersecurity protections for critical infrastructure across all sectors, reduces duplication of efforts, and helps protect our nation from the persistent threat posed by cyberattacks.”

Lawmakers voted on amendments Wednesday and Thursday but still had others to consider at the end of the day. The cybersecurity amendment passed by a 96-2 vote, while an amendment proposed by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., regarding transparency of federal funding of broadband projects passed by a 95-0 vote.

“Without a clear picture of where the funding is going, it will be increasingly difficult to avoid duplication and distribute resources where they are needed the most,” Fischer said. “So our amendment would create an online mapping tool through an interagency process so we can view the latest progress of all these deployment projects in one place.”

Notable amendments which failed in floor votes include a provision to prevent funds from being allocated if the Congressional Budget Office determines the result would increase inflation as well as a provision to prevent federal funding to entities that do not enroll in the E-Verifiy program.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., explained his amendment on inflation on the Senate floor before it failed to pass in a 42-55 vote.

“We do need to start doing something about inflation, and we can do that today with the infrastructure spending bill,” he said. “We can all get behind real infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports, and seaports, but we have to acknowledge that $1.2 trillion is a massive amount of taxpayer dollars. I will not support anything that increases inflation on American families.”

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., defended his E-Verify amendment which failed by a 53-45 vote, falling short of the three-fifths majority required.

“The E-Verify system is very simple and straightforward,” he said. “It’s been used all over the country. It is a nonpartisan issue that we’ve used for decades now.”

As the Senate continues to vote on amendments to the bill throughout the week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has indicated the bill could be voted on as soon as this weekend.

Senators are eager to finish the infrastructure process as they prepare for a month-long recess scheduled to begin at the end of the week.

“Everybody understands that right behind this is going to be the budget, and I don’t think anybody is looking to extend this out any longer than necessary,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters Thursday.

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