Senate Republican leaders said on Monday that the party will block a vote later this week advancing the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless the negotiators strike a deal on it.
“We need to see the bill before voting to go to it,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I think that’s pretty easily understood.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to set up on Wednesday the key test vote on the legislation, which doesn’t exist yet, in order to spur the Republican and Democratic negotiators to write it. In June, the White House and a bipartisan Senate group agreed to a $579 billion framework to build roads, bridges, railroads and airports, along with water, power and broadband infrastructure projects.
But lawmakers have since struggled over how to pay for the massive investment, and have made their task even harder by agreeing to scrap a provision that would have strengthened the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to collect unpaid taxes, which would’ve raised up to $100 billion in government revenue. The bipartisan infrastructure talks will continue on Monday evening over Zoom, multiple sources tell CNN.
Republicans have criticized Schumer for preparing the procedural vote on Wednesday, and argued he’s trying to undermine the negotiations. They are particularly hesitant to vote to advance a shell of a bill before the Congressional Budget Office determines how much it would add to the US debt.
The negotiators are even split on how far apart they are. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin expressed confidence on Monday that they could quickly address their concerns over how to pay for the bill before the vote.
“We should have that done tonight,” said Manchin.
But Sen. Rob Portman, the lead Republican negotiator in the talks, said there are still over a dozen issues to work out, and argued the group has not had enough time to negotiate a deal. He suggested the Senate shouldn’t vote on it until they do.
Portman said he doesn’t know how much more time the group will need, but said they’re “at a sprinter’s pace given the significance of this.” He said he was on Zoom calls with Democrats and Republicans until 10:15 p.m. ET on Sunday night and started meetings at 7 a.m. ET Monday with members and the CBO.
“We’re working as hard as we can,” he said. “I can’t imagine that we’ll have a cloture vote on something that’s not yet done. I mean, what are we going to have the cloture vote on?”
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said he’d oppose Wednesday’s vote, and asserted there would not be 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats in voting to start a floor debate on the bill unless a deal is secured.
“I don’t think they’re going to get there,” Cornyn said. “Even the bipartisan negotiators say they’re not ready and this is really an arbitrary deadline.”
Schumer has brushed aside the Republicans’ concerns. He said on Thursday, “there’s no reason why we can’t start voting next Wednesday, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester agreed that the vote Wednesday should happen.
“Yeah, I think it puts pressure on us to get some s— done,” Tester said.
The Democrats have set up two-track negotiations to broadly address the country’s infrastructure needs. The first involves the emerging bipartisan plan. The second is a $3.5 trillion Democratic bill that would include other priorities many Republicans oppose, such as offering paid medical and family leave and potentially even overhauling the country’s immigration system.
But some Democrats have balked at the price tag for the Democratic-only bill.
Manchin declined to say Monday whether he was comfortable with the huge figure.
“I’m just trying to get more information tonight,” he said.
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