Schumer “thought this was the best way to keep pushing the bill forward,” Tester said of the leader’s decision, adding in an interview that the New York Democrat “doesn’t want to kill” l bipartite agreement. “And so I accepted. We all agreed.… He’s totally convinced he’s crossing the finish line.
Since deciding to go ahead, Schumer has been careful to explain that work on a bill can continue throughout the weekend if that’s what it takes, even if he seeks to impose a deadline on a back-and-forth that otherwise might never end. But by setting up a roll call on Wednesday, he is channeling progressive Democrats who have long doubted Republicans would ever raise their votes to give President Joe Biden a bipartisan victory.
As Schumer’s Monday afternoon meeting with the centrists illustrates in part, he was also careful to court all corners of his caucus. He wants to make sure that if the whole attempt to make a deal fails, the moderate Democrats he needs to execute the rest of Biden’s agenda don’t blame him.
It was not all smooth sailing, and even some of its members had doubts on Tuesday. Over a festive lunch, Manchin debated with Schumer the merits of delaying the vote for a day or two last Wednesday while the bill is finalized and the two had a one-to-one conversation. head thereafter, according to participants. Manchin’s delay request was first reported by CNN.
But Warner and Tester backed Schumer, attendees said. And at the end of lunch, Manchin appeared swayed by Schumer’s strategy and then told reporters that he honored the Democratic leader’s commitment to the group’s work.
“Chuck has a strategy he’s working on, and I trust him when he says, ‘Hey, we’re going to pass this bill. I want it to pass, ”Manchin said. “I believe him.”
After his attempts to establish an independent commission on the Jan.6 insurgency fail, Schumer is also trying to reassure reluctant Republicans that he is as accommodating as possible on the infrastructure bill. He met privately on Tuesday with Sinema and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the two main negotiators of the eventual deal to fund roads, bridges and broadband.
The two gathered their group together on Tuesday night to make one last big push ahead of the first vote on the progress of the package.
Defending his strategy on Tuesday, Schumer reiterated that “there is no reason” for Wednesday’s test vote to fail. He also alluded to the frustration over the media coverage of his decision, saying that “journalists have come to see me. They don’t understand it.
“The plan I have is very fair for the bipartisan process,” he told reporters. “We are moving forward and we hope our Republican friends will decide they want to move on as well.”
Sources working on the bipartisan infrastructure talks have outlined a path to recovery once the bill fails as expected on Wednesday, with drafting underway and another procedural vote possible next week. But Schumer’s pleas to all sides of the game play better with Democrats than the GOP, which likes to use it as a foil and sharpen its leadership.
Longtime training partner Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he did not find Schumer’s pleas “particularly credible”.
“He is sabotaging the bipartisan bill, believing it to make it more likely that he will be able to get the 50 Democratic senators on the spending and tax bill,” Cornyn said, referring to a plan separate spending of $ 3.5 trillion that Democrats are developing. A failed closing vote will be “in accordance with his plan,” Cornyn added of Schumer.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a central member of the bipartisan talks, said Schumer’s motives are not “malicious,” as the Democrat contemplates a brutal downfall program of funding the government and avoiding a debt default. credit. “The president wants to do it. He made it very clear that he was doing it. I guess Leader Schumer wants to be on the same page as the President. “
The timing is a testament to the unprecedented level of difficulty Schumer faces in managing a 50-50 Senate. He is now the majority leader who has done so for the longest period in US history; the last 50-50 Senate collapsed after less than six months, with the late Senator Jim Jeffords giving the Democrats a majority after a feud with former President George W. Bush over economic policy.
There is no sign that the majority of Schumer is in similar danger, given how well he keeps Manchin and other moderates. But he is unlikely to achieve his goal of uniting members around the $ 3.5 trillion spending plan by Wednesday, with Manchin claiming a full focus on the bipartisan effort for the time being.
Even so, Democratic negotiators blamed Wednesday’s deadline for leading Washington to a result, even if the road to getting there isn’t pretty. Sinema said on Tuesday that she “does not control the ground, so I don’t waste a second thinking about [Schumer’s] Hourly. All I can do is help finish the bill.
“It’s his job to see the big picture, and those are the two most important things we’ll do this year. But we can’t spend the whole year on them, ”said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) Of Schumer. “His job is to push for action, not endless negotiation. So I think it’s only fitting that he keeps the heat. “
Still, a divided Senate means it’s important for Schumer to keep his credibility with Republicans he’ll need later to avoid default and pass the bipartisan deal, if he can be resurrected after Wednesday’s vote. . Republicans said a failed vote on Wednesday is more likely to destroy long-standing bipartisan talks than provide catharsis.
“It doesn’t seem like that encourages us to do our job. It seems to me that it creates reasons to do [a deal] harder to accomplish, ”said Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the bipartisan group. “It doesn’t look right to me.”
Schumer did not indicate what action he would take after Wednesday’s planned failed vote, saying only on Tuesday that he hoped Republicans would join Democrats in voting to move forward. Republicans continue to insist that the vote be delayed to allow a positive result early next week.
And as the two parties exchange views on Schumer’s motives, some Democratic senators say they see a maturation of the New York Democrat’s approach after four years of watching Minority Leader Mitch McConnell take tough positions during his tenure. Schumer has been majority leader for six months and his allies say he is growing in the business.
“He thinks he knows how to use the tools,” Warner said. “We have seen Chief McConnell use some of the same tactics.”