GOP warns against passing infrastructure bill, key test for Biden agenda

  • Senator Mitt Romney is among Republicans calling for a postponement of the vote on infrastructure.
  • Informal talks could continue if the Senate votes against the indoor debate on Wednesday.
  • Senator Chuck Schumer organized the vote because the legislative calendar is busy.

WASHINGTON – The odds of a bipartisan infrastructure bill going forward on Wednesday appear grim as top Republican Senate negotiators have said they will not vote to debate the bill as final details fail have not yet been finalized.

“We cannot support the fence for something we have not yet accomplished,” said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the Republicans’ chief negotiator. “We have not reached agreement on key issues.

Republican Senate negotiators are key to moving the bill forward. Nearly a dozen Senate Republicans, including Portman, struck a deal with President Joe Biden in June on the infrastructure plan. Since the 50 Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to back the bill in order to remove a parliamentary barrier to debate,losing the support of a few GOP Senate negotiators may block the bill.

It looked like it was on Tuesday.

Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, another negotiator, said he would vote against starting debate on the bill on Wednesday and said the group would send Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y ., a letter asking to postpone the vote to Monday. Romney said three-quarters of the contentious issues had been resolved in the past two days.

“I would expect that by the end of the week we will have them all resolved,” Romney said. “We will be ready on Monday. We won’t have the full text, of course, but we will have a detailed overview. “

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“I hope we don’t have a motion to proceed on Wednesday,” said another negotiator, Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine. “I hope it will be postponed.”

The Senate vote will be a key test of whether one of President Joe Biden’s ambitious and costly economic proposals becomes law. The bipartisan package offers hundreds of billions of dollars for roads, bridges, railways and broadband.

Informal talks could continue if the Senate votes against the indoor debate on Wednesday. But due to the crushing of other laws dealing with current spending, voting rights and a police overhaul, a Senate rejection of infrastructure could thwart one of the most promising prospects for bipartisan cooperation this year. year.

Schumer, D fixed the vote after a month of bipartisan talks as other laws overload the schedule. But he said the bill could still be debated for 30 hours and amended in the hall. Despite Republican opposition, Schumer said he would hold the vote on Wednesday.

“Senate Democrats are keeping their foot on the gas pedal,” Schumer said. “This is not an attempt to block anyone, it is just a vote on whether senators are ready to start debating the matter.”

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Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., Negotiator in the infrastructure talks, arrives for votes on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Senate Budget Chairman Committee, met at the White House with President Joe Biden to remove obstacles to an infrastructure deal.  (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite) ORG XMIT: DCSA103

The most controversial aspects of the negotiations concern how to pay for the legislation at a time of overspending during the COVID-19 pandemic. One option was to strengthen the IRS’s enforcement of tax collections, but this has not been resolved.

Congress has already approved $ 3.3 trillion in response to the coronavirus pandemic under the Trump administration last year and an additional $ 1.9 trillion under Biden in March. Biden’s spending proposals have led to comparisons to the New Deal under former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Republicans led by Kentucky Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted on having legislation before voting on the bipartisan bill. He said he would waste no time if the bill were blocked on Wednesday, as Schumer could take it back when the text was ready.

“We’re not going to Bill until we know what Bill is,” McConnell said. “The economy doesn’t need this tax and spending frenzy.”

“It really is a travesty,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “If my constituents think I’m voting on a bill that hasn’t been drafted yet, and I don’t know how much it would cost, they would probably try to call me back.”

But Democrats argue that repairing and expanding crumbling infrastructure is too important to postpone. Democratic negotiators have described working late into the night to resolve dozens of disputes – talks yet to be concluded.

“I feel better today than last night,” said Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., After negotiations went on Monday until midnight.

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Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., Told reporters Monday that Republicans opposing the debate for lack of legislation would be “a problem.” But he said Schumer’s strategy to force a vote is common and shouldn’t kill the bill.

“I hope people are smarter than that,” Tester said.

If senators agreed to start discussing the bill, they would have 30 hours to debate and amend the bill. But Schumer said if no consensus was reached on the legislation on Thursday, he would start adding more legislation through four major amendments.

The four additional pieces of legislation, which were each approved in committee in bipartisan votes, include a water projects bill, a highways bill, a railways bill and a draft law. energy law.

“I understand that both sides are working very hard to transform the bipartite infrastructure framework into final legislation, and they will continue to have more time to debate, amend and refine the bill once the Senate votes to address it. this crucial question “, Schumer” But they have been working on this bipartisan framework for over a month now and it is time to start the debate. “

President Joe Biden, center, speaks during a meeting with a bipartisan group of governors, mayors and cabinet officials in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on July 14, 2021, to discuss the bipartite agreement on infrastructure in the Senate.  Biden is flanked by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, left, and Vice President Kamala Harris, right.

The debate only grows more resentful over the $ 3.5 trillion legislation that Schumer said the Senate would consider during the July work period, which he warned could extend to August.

Senate Democrats have offered to spend that money on Biden’s economic priorities around caregivers and education. Republicans argue Democrats are spending irresponsibly, especially with rising inflation.

“There is no reason we cannot get the ball rolling this week on the two pieces of the Senate infrastructure program,” Schumer said.

The $ 3.5 trillion package is much more controversial as Democrats pursue a strategy to potentially approve it without any Republican votes using a legislative maneuver called reconciliation.

The package that Senate Democrats negotiated with the White House would include Biden’s priorities such as extending Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing benefits; childcare subsidies; home health care development programs and two years of federally funded community college.

Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Aims to approximate legislation, which would allow a simple majority of the 100 Senate members to approve it, rather than having to cross a 60-vote hurdle to avoid Republican obstruction. Democrats and Republicans each have 50 votes, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the deciding vote.

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But even some Democrats in the equally divided Senate are asking for details before committing to backing him.

“It’s a challenge,” Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., told reporters Thursday, in a decisive vote. “I’m going to take up a challenge. I will work as hard as I can.

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