WASHINGTON – Senior Senate Republicans negotiating bipartisan infrastructure legislation warn that a vote scheduled for Wednesday to start debating the measure could fail as talks continue and there is no final text for the draft. law.
“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.
Other GOP negotiators said their colleagues would not support the vote without legislation. The 50 Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to support the bill in order to remove a parliamentary barrier to debate.
Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who participated in the negotiations, said he would vote against the start of debate on the bill on Wednesday and he hoped Schumer would move 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 pushed back.”
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 routine 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.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., has set 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.
“This is not a deadline to determine all the final details of the bill,” he said.
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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 was blocked on Wednesday, as Schumer could take it back when the text was ready.
“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 railway bill and a bill. on energy.
“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. “
Debate only escalates over a $ 3.5 trillion piece of legislation that Schumer said the Senate would consider during the July work period, which he warned could extend to ‘in 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.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: GOP warns against infrastructure vote, key test for Biden agenda