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Politics Chat: Getting Infrastructure Passed Will Be Challenging Task For Biden


It is the infrastructure dance. One step forward, one step back, cha cha cha cha, and repeat. OK, jokes aside, the Senate is in session today to try and take the $1.2 trillion package - which, let us remind you, is about badly needed money for roads and bridges and climate change infrastructure - over the finish line. There are, of course, hurdles ahead, even though the bill is advancing. We're joined now by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson for more. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu. I know you love infrastructure.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) I so love infrastructure, which is why I make us talk about it every Sunday.

LIASSON: Yes. Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) All right. Lots of procedural stuff has happened. Lawmakers expected to hold two more votes on this bill. What is going on?

LIASSON: Well, the bill is marching forward or stumbling forward, depending on your favorite metaphor. And it has bipartisan support.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Dancing forward.

LIASSON: It's passed - dancing forward, right. Cha cha cha. It has some - it has bipartisan support, but the Senate has still not agreed on the list of amendments that are going to be on the floor. I think that most people in the Senate expect that this bill will pass in the end, but there are going to still be a lot of twists and turns.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, this is a bipartisan measure with overwhelming support - 67 senators, and that includes 18 Republicans voted to limit debate on this bill so that it could advance. We should note that they only needed 60 votes for that. So, you know, what is behind this push to sort of further stall what seems to be inevitable?

LIASSON: Well, on one level, this is normal legislating. It takes a long time. It's messy. And there are a lot of twists and turns. We're not used to watching Congress do this for a long time, so that's one thing. But the other thing, in terms of the specific hurdles, not all Republicans are happy about increasing the deficit, which you could say is almost a joke since they happily increased the deficit when Donald Trump was president for tax cuts that weren't paid for and other things. So that's one hurdle. The other thing - there are other specific issues. Some of them are bipartisan. There's measures about cryptocurrency in this bill that senators have concerns about. There are - there's a Republican senator from Texas, John Cornyn, who wants to spend $50 million on infrastructure on military bases, and he is holding up the bill because of that. So there are a lot of specific hurdles, but it is moving forward, slowly and messily.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, you mentioned former President Donald Trump there. He is also lobbying against this bill, too. Is that playing into the fight in Congress? I mean, how much sway does he still have?

LIASSON: Well, on this, I don't think he has that much sway. He is trying to stop it. He has said that Republicans who support this bill are RINOs - Republicans in name only. He's called them weak, foolish and dumb in press releases. He said, don't pass this bill. If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way. He probably won't stop the bill. But remember, he didn't have a lot of sway in Congress to pass his agenda other than tax cuts and judges, so that's not that surprising. But infrastructure is very popular, including among Republicans, and it's something that he used to be for. So it's a confusing message for Donald Trump. Remember infrastructure week? Happened over and over again. He just never got it together to actually put a bill before Congress.

The other thing that's interesting to me is that some Democrats are worried about the lessons that the White House will take from this bill when it passes. Of course, if it does, it'll be a big boost for Joe Biden. This is his brand. Bipartisanship is still alive. He ran on this as a campaign promise. But what they're worried about is they say that this is just a beefed-up highway bill, and they're worried that it will be interpreted that the system works. Nothing needs to change. You don't need to mess with the filibuster. And everything is fine.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson taking us through the latest iteration of the infrastructure talks. And perhaps, perhaps maybe we won't have to talk about it next week. Thank you very...


GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Thank you very much, Mara.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.