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Senate prepares for procedural vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill as negotiators close to deal

Washington – The Senate is preparing to move forward on Wednesday with a key procedural vote pushing forward a $ 579 billion bipartisan infrastructure framework that is a pillar of President Biden’s economic agenda, even as senators continue to work to finalize the details of the plan.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has set Wednesday’s preliminary vote as a deadline to push the bipartisan group of senators to negotiate the details of the measure in order to reach an agreement. Talks between members of the bipartisan coalition continued on Tuesday evening, with senators showing an optimistic tone that the outstanding issues could be resolved as early as Wednesday.

But the legislation has yet to be released, and Republican Senate leaders have warned they don’t think their members will vote to start debating a bill they haven’t yet seen, denying the Democrats the 60 votes necessary for the measure to advance.

The plan, which prioritizes funding for physical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and ports, is part of Mr Biden’s economic agenda, and the White House has said it supports Schumer’s strategy to move forward with the bipartisan plan.

The New York Democrat said on Tuesday that the next procedural vote would be on a dummy bill for the bipartisan infrastructure framework to simply kickstart the legislative process by proceeding with the debate.

“This is not a cynical ploy,” he said in remarks to the Senate. “This is not a ‘fish or bait cut’ moment. It is not an attempt to block anyone. It is only a signal that the Senate is ready to start the process.”

Mr. Biden and a bipartisan group of senators agreed on an infrastructure framework in June, but the group struggled to find details on how to fund the proposal. The bipartisan group of senators negotiating the infrastructure framework met again for hours on Tuesday and said after their meeting that they were close to a deal.

“We’re digging deep into things like payments and we wouldn’t be continuing this effort if we didn’t think we would get there,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia said after Tuesday night’s meeting.

But Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah urged Schumer to postpone the procedural vote from Wednesday to Monday to give the bipartisan group more time to complete its work and release the legislation.

“This vote should not take place today,” Collins told reporters hours before the vote. “We are making tremendous progress, and I hope the majority leader will reconsider and simply delay the vote until Monday.”

GOP Senate leaders have signaled that they would also like to see the contents of the bill before moving the measure forward.

“You don’t waste time by adhering to a very simple principle: we don’t get to the bill until we know what the bill is,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Tuesday. journalists at a press conference.

Still, after meeting with the bipartisan group on Tuesday, Romney said the group could resolve outstanding issues with the executive on Wednesday.

“It will be a very, very long time before we actually have a full text invoice, but we might have all the issues resolved by [Wednesday]”Said the Utah Republican.” We’ve set up a small subcommittee that’s going to take care of a couple who are staying, but of the 25 we started with, we’re not anymore. only a couple and I think we’ll get there. “

Schumer noted on Tuesday that if the bipartisan group can finalize their deal by Thursday, then they will propose the text as a pending substitution amendment. If the bipartisan group cannot come to an agreement by Thursday, Schumer said the Senate will move forward with reviewing parts of the framework that have been passed by Senate committees with bipartisan support.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told reporters on Wednesday that Schumer’s deadline was important because he believed negotiations were dragging on.

“By setting the deadline today, he accelerated discussions and negotiations in a pretty impactful and important way,” added Murphy.

Schumer has long wanted the Senate to vote this month on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and budget resolution, which will detail Senate committees how to build a reconciliation bill that includes Mr. Biden’s agenda items omitted from the closer bipartite agreement.

Schumer and Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee announced last week that they had come to an agreement on a $ 3.5 trillion price tag for the budget resolution to pass Mr Biden’s social spending package. The budget resolution is expected to include provisions that would expand medicare, tackle climate change and reform the country’s immigration system, as well as the president’s proposals on child care and education.

If bipartisan negotiations fail, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said he believes nearly $ 600 billion in new spending could be added to the $ 3.5 trillion budget resolution. dollars.

Kaine also noted that Schumer has the option of resubmitting the reconsideration motion if the vote fails.

“I think [Schumer’s] decision on this would be based on what the bipartisan negotiating group tells them about the progress they are making, ”he said. “And yesterday, even as we talked about the likelihood that the vote might fail today, members of the bipartisan group really felt like they were making progress.”

Mr Biden, meanwhile, is due to travel to Ohio to present his economic program on Wednesday night.

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