Senate GOP Blocks Debate On Bipartisan $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

Senate GOP Blocks Debate On Bipartisan $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
July 21, 2021

Senate Republicans blocked a key procedural vote to open debate on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill Wednesday, fulfilling a promise made to kill the motion arguing they wouldn’t vote to start consideration until they saw a final version detailing what exactly the legislation entails.

The procedural vote failed 51 to 49, falling short of the 60 votes to succeed in bypassing the filibuster. With the Senate split 50-50, Democrats needed 10 Republicans to cross the aisle to reach the 60 senator supermajority needed to advance the legislation. However, all 50 Senate Republicans voted to block debate, including those part of the bipartisan group of senators working with Democrats in negotiating the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) switched his vote to a “No” at the end in order to be able to bring the measure up for another vote at a later date without filing cloture.

“At the end of the vote, I changed my response to a ‘no’ so that I may move to reconsider this vote at a future time,” Schumer said after the vote explaining to reporters the procedural move vote maneuvering.

A bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats Senators dubbed the G22 has been negotiating the plan after reaching a deal late last month with President Biden on the framework for their $1.2 trillion plan. In a statement after Wednesday’s failed vote, the group said they are “close to a final agreement” and “are optimistic” to advance the “historic bipartisan proposal” within the upcoming days.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), the lead Republicans negotiator of the bipartisan group, suggested another vote as soon as Monday, stating the group will “be ready by then,” with talks wrapping up and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releasing its score projecting cost estimate. The bipartisan plan, which funds traditional infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, and waterways, would include $579 billion in new spending and would cost $1.2 trillion over eight years.

“We suggested it be on Monday. Because we think we’ll be ready by then. And ready means … we have our CBO scores by then. We have our Joint Committee on Taxation scores, or we will by then,” Portman said. “We’re saying we do want this to take up this bill as soon as we are. We think that will be Monday.”

Schumer set up Wednesday’s vote last week even though the bill has yet to be written to ratcheted up pressure on the group to finish up talks the bill’s language. He pointed that the group has spent more than a month negotiating over the details and that it was time to start debating the measure in the Senate, saying Wednesday’s vote was “not an attempt to jam anyone,” just “only a signal that the Senate is ready to get the process started,” adding that “to finish the bill, we first need to agree to start.”

GOP Senators negotiating the deal said they are close to an agreement and urged Schumer to postpone Wednesday’s vote so talks could continue how to pay and finalize details of the bill. They pushed for the vote to be delayed until next Monday, arguing that the 10 GOP needed would support the procedural vote to move ahead with the debate.

According to a Senate GOP staffer who spoke to The Floridian said the bipartisan group had struggled over how to pay for the massive investment after they recently agreed to scrap a provision in giving the Internal Revenue Service’s the ability to collect unpaid taxes that reportedly would have raised over $100 billion in government revenue.

However, Schumer rejected Republican warning to delay and pushed forward in filing a motion to proceed with the House bill with a shell bill into which the fuller detailed infrastructure text would be inserted later. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called Schumer’s tactics a “stunt” prior to the vote, noting that the Majority Leader “intent on holding a vote he knows will fail.”

“These discussions have yet to conclude. There’s no outcome yet, no bipartisan agreement, no text, nothing for the Congressional Budget Office to evaluate, and certainly nothing on which to vote, not yet,” McConnell said during Senate floor speech. “So obviously, if the Democratic leader tries to force a cloture vote on a bill that does not exist, it will fail. Around here, we typically write the bills before we vote on them. That’s the custom.”

Biden’s infrastructure agenda has been split into “two-track” — the first being the $1.2 trillion bipartisan plan devoted to funding infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. The second is a $3.5 trillion “human” infrastructure spending package that would dramatically expand the social safety net by pouring billions in federal funds on an array of issues from expanding Medicare, combatting climate change, and providing amnesty to illegals. Senate Democrats released the framework last week after reaching an agreement that includes nearly all of President Biden’s American Families Plan bill, such as his proposals on child care and education, provisions that were previously cut out during earlier negotiations with Republicans.

The majority leader also set a Wednesday informal deadline for getting all 50 Democrats on board with the framework for the budget reconciliation bill to give the Senate budget committee the green light the blessings to begin writing the bill’s text. The $3.5 trillion spending package measure has zero Republican Senator support. Many sounding the alarm about the price tag with the economy shows inflation strains and details regarding how the government would pay for the expansive social net programs.

Facing a tough legislative calendar to pass both measures before Congress breaks for its traditional August recess, Schumer also failed to garnish his full caucus committing their support for the progressive budget resolution. Progressive Democrats have warned that they won’t support the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless they have assurances from moderate Democrats that they have their support to pass the $3.5 trillion social net program package.

Schumer hopes to pass the infrastructure bill with bipartisan support and then follow up separately to try and pass the $3.5 trillion spending plan using the budget reconciliation. The procedural tool allows Democrats to bypass the 60-vote threshold to advance the legislation forward with just a simple majority and without any GOP vote. But in a 50-50 Senate, Democrats can’t afford even a single defection from any of its own members.

If the bipartisan negotiations fail to pass as promised Monday, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said Senate Democrats are weighing a Plan B contingency plan in moving both measures into a “combined investment totaling about $4.1 trillion.”

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

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