Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer formally set the first procedural vote on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure for Wednesday as lawmakers worked feverishly to hammer out the details of the legislation in Capitol Hill’s own version of “Beat the Clock.”
Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have vowed they will not vote to move forward on the bill if the text has not been finalized.
“I think we need to see the bill before we decide whether or not to vote for it,” McConnell told reporters earlier Monday. “I think that’s pretty easily understood.”
McConnell echoed Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the bipartisan group crafting the package, who told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that Wednesday was an “arbitrary deadline” set by Schumer.
“We should bring the legislation forward when it’s ready,” Portman added.
However, Schumer insisted Monday night that Wednesday’s scheduled vote is “not a deadline to determine every final detail of the bill.”
“What we’re talking about this week is a vote on whether to proceed to debate on the bipartisan infrastructure framework. The motion to proceed on Wednesday is simply about getting the legislative process started here on the Senate floor,” the Democrat said. “All the ‘yes’ vote on the motion to proceed simply means is that the Senate is ready to begin debating and amending a bipartisan infrastructure bill. No more, no less.”
Portman told reporters Monday that he and his colleagues had attempted to hash out most of the details on a Sunday Zoom call that lasted until 10:15 p.m. Another call was scheduled for Monday night.
“I think we had over two dozen differences we had to work out and negotiate, and we got through probably half,” Portman said. “Maybe less.”
Portman backed McConnell’s threat to vote “no” on Wednesday’s motion to proceed, saying, “We can’t support cloture for something we haven’t accomplished yet. We haven’t come to an agreement on key issues, nor has the White House.”
Another Republican member of the bipartisan group, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, said he was “not quite sure what the rationale is” for Schumer going forward with Wednesday’s vote.
Members of both parties have been wrangling over how to pay for the legislation. GOP lawmakers have backed away from tax compliance enforcement by the IRS, while Democrats rejected a proposal to link gas taxes to inflation.
If the bipartisan bill passes the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she will not consider it unless the upper chamber also passes a larger $3.5 trillion spending package that includes money to expand social programs like Medicare. Democrats hope to pass the bigger bill through the Senate with 51 votes via the parliamentary tactic of reconciliation.