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August 10, 2021

Senate approves infrastructure bill

The Senate August 10 approved 69-30 the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684), a bipartisan infrastructure package that would provide $550 billion in new spending that, combined with routinely authorized transportation funding, is $1 trillion over five years. The plan was first announced about 6 weeks ago, followed by a month of nailing down details of pay-fors and other provisions, and two consecutive weekends of the Senate in session as senators couldn't reach consensus on accelerating the process.

The bill makes investments in roads & bridges, broadband, water, and power, paid for with unused COVID funds, IRS cryptocurrency reporting, pension smoothing, a delay of the Medicare Part D rebate rule, and other provisions.

The standoff over accelerating the process was credited with preventing the consideration of additional amendments. Aside from the substitute, no amendments have been voted on since Thursday — including on cryptocurrency. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) August 9 offered a compromise amendment on cryptocurrency addressing concerns that reporting requirements could extend to those who are not brokers, and objections seemed to be rooted in the broader controversy over offering amendments. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) objected to Toomey's request unless his Defense spending amendment could be considered, which Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) objected to.

Thus, the bill was passed with the original cryptocurrency language to apply information reporting requirements to digital assets (including cryptocurrency), and updating the definition of broker with the intention of reflecting the realities of how digital assets are acquired and traded, by adding to the definition "any person who (for consideration) is responsible for regularly providing any service effectuating transfers of digital assets on behalf of another person."

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) said a clarification that reporting only applies to brokers could be provided by the Treasury Department. Also, Politico reported that a group of House lawmakers intend to push for such a clarification when the bill is considered there. Further, if the House changes the Senate bill, a process to resolve differences between the two chambers will be required.

It is unclear how soon the House will act on the infrastructure bill given Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) commitment to take up the infrastructure bill only after the Senate passes a reconciliation bill under the FY2022 budget resolution. "Let's see what happens … " Speaker Pelosi said August 6 when asked about the House being called back from the summer recess to vote on infrastructure. "But I did say that we're going to do this when we can do it all."


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