The infrastructure deal President Biden brokered with Democratic and Republican lawmakers is in jeopardy as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tees up a procedural vote on the $1.2 trillion package while GOP lawmakers seek a delay so that details over how to pay for it and what exactly is in it can be ironed out.
Democrats are hoping to pass the infrastructure bill with bipartisan support in the Senate and then follow up by moving a $3.5 trillion spending package that includes funds for education, climate change, education, Medicaid and other social programs through reconciliation, which allows them to bypass Republicans altogether.
The pivotal cloture vote comes as Biden hits the road for Cincinnati, Ohio, to pitch the infrastructure deal as part of his “Build Back Better” campaign promise.
With the Senate evenly split at 50-50, Democrats need 10 Republicans to vote with them to reach the 60-vote threshold to end cloture and begin debate.
But Republicans are urging a pause, raising concerns over the effect the massive spending bill will have on the economy, which is already showing strains of inflation, how to pay for the initiatives and to continue to negotiate over the details.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has been involved in the negotiations, said he and other Republicans would vote against the package, despite their support for it.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell members of his party will find it difficult to vote on the bill without knowing what’s in it.
He also slammed the bill for its huge spending, saying it isn’t what the US economy needs right now.
“Middle-class families are already facing runaway costs. The last thing they need is another massive, reckless taxing and spending spree. It’s simple. We need to stop paying people more to stay at home than to work and encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” he said on Tuesday.
McConnell (R-Ky.) urged his caucus to vote against no during a private lunch meeting on Tuesday.
“We’re not going to vote to proceed to a bill that doesn’t exist yet,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said later.
“We can’t support cloture for something we haven’t accomplished yet. We haven’t come to agreement on key issues,” Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, one of the lawmakers involved in the bipartisan talks, said Tuesday.
But Schumer, in a damn-the-torpedoes stance, said the vote will proceed Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. despite deep reservations by Republicans.
“It is not a final deadline for legislative text. It is not a cynical ploy,” the New York Democrat said Tuesday. “It is not a fish-or-cut-bait moment. It is not an attempt to jam anyone. It is only a signal that the Senate is ready to get the process started – something the Senate has routinely done on other bipartisan bills this year.”
Schumer plans to use a “shell bill” because negotiations are continuing and the text hasn’t been finished.
Once completed, the “shell bill” can be swapped out for the completed version.
A group of 22 bipartisan senators have been negotiating the intricacies of the infrastructure plan over the past couple of weeks, but have been largely stymied by disagreement over the pay-fors.
Biden had proposed boosting the Internal Revenue Service’s enforcement of tax cheats to raise an estimated $100 billion over 10 years but that idea appears to have been shelved in meetings over the weekend.
The president also wants to hike taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans who earn more than $400,000 a year.
In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she won’t call a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the spending package.
But some progressives in her caucus are getting antsy and support moving ahead without Republicans.
“Time’s a-wasting, I want to get this work done,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said Tuesday.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused the Republicans of stalling as Congress prepares to go into summer recess in less than two weeks.
”They’ve been killing time for months and at this point, I believe it’s starting to get to a point where this bipartisan effort is seeming to serve less on investing in our infrastructure and serving more than ends up just delaying action on infrastructure,” the socialist New York Democrat told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s been enough.”
Sixty votes are needed to begin debate on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill – meaning 10 Republicans will have to vote with all 50 Democratic senators.
For the $3.5 trillion companion legislation, Schumer has said he wants Democrats to be unified in their support so they can push it through the Senate with 51 votes under reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that allows them to bypass the 60-vote filibuster with Vice President Kamala Harris’ crucial 51st vote.
With Post wires