The bipartisan group of Senate negotiators speak to reporters Wednesday just after a vote to start work on a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, at the Capitol in Washington. From left are Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The word in this town and all across this country from the naysayers is that bipartisanship is dead, that it doesn’t work anymore, and the government is broken, and we are here to say, ‘No, it works,’” U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, said after the Senate voted to advance debate on a bipartisan infrastructure bill. “It takes time, it is hard, it causes Susan [Collins] not to sleep, but we get it done.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

An overwhelming Senate vote boded well for a large, bipartisan infrastructure bill, but it is unclear whether the large margins will hold. All Senate Democrats and 17 Republicans voted in favor of advancing debate on the proposal, which is now set to include $550 billion in infrastructure spending. The text of the bill still has not been released.

Both of Maine’s senators applauded the deal, with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who was among the leading Republican negotiators, saying it was a “vitally important first step,” while U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and was also in negotiations, said the bill would “make a major difference in the lives of American people.”

At a press conference late Wednesday, senators were quick to pass around credit — thanking each other, President Joe Biden’s administration and the House Problem Solvers Caucus, among others — and pointed to the symbolic importance of the bill, saying it proved bipartisan work is possible.

But as Collins and King also noted, there is still a long way to go. Democrats still have to get the bill through the evenly divided Senate, keeping every member of their caucus on board along with at least 10 Republicans. Several Republicans who voted to advance the bill Wednesday indicated they were still undecided as to whether they would ultimately vote for it.

How the ultimate vote shakes out may come down to the final bill text, including the provisions on how the proposed investments will be paid for. Senators have indicated they will rely on a smorgasbord of funding, including repurposed COVID-19 relief dollars, better enforcement of cryptocurrency taxes, miscellaneous fees and expected economic growth resulting from the bill’s investments. A final score from the Congressional Budget Office is not yet available.

There is also the question of what the House will do if the Senate manages to pass the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated she may wait on holding a vote on infrastructure until the upper chamber also passes a more than $3 trillion budget bill. That approach reflects progressive concerns that the infrastructure bill is insufficient, but it has received pushback from more moderate Democrats including U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District, who pushed Pelosi earlier this month to hold a vote right away.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Janet Mills mirrors US CDC mask guidelines, but affected counties change quickly,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The news came a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended masks in all counties with “substantial” or “high” community transmission, a group that included York and Piscataquis counties in data released Tuesday but only included Waldo County on Wednesday. The U.S. CDC recommended masks for those living with immunocompromised people and for all people in public schools, regardless of vaccination status.” 

The guidelines may prove to be challenging for businesses to keep up with. Members of the public were not always happy about mask requirements last year, something business owners remember all too well as the new guidelines were rolled out. Find out where your county stands on the CDC’s threshold here.

— “Belfast event shows extremism is gaining traction in Maine,” Lia Russell, BDN: “‘Extremists have always had a foothold in Maine, period,’ [Karyn Sporer, a University of Maine sociologist and principal investigator for the Department of Homeland Security’s National Counterterrorism, Innovation, Technology and Education Center] said, citing the Ku Klux Klan’s presence in the state in the 1920s. The major difference between 10 years ago and now is that people feel emboldened to share racist or extremist thoughts.”

— “Feds consider compensating fishermen for wind energy effects on harvests,” Fred Bever, Maine Public: “In a written statement, a spokesman for the Governor’s Energy Office says the state also hasn’t yet joined any formal conversations on the issue, but will participate in any such efforts ‘to ensure Maine’s interests are represented as part of a measured and prudent approach to offshore wind.’”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

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