Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked the Senate from debating infrastructure as negotiators say they are near finalizing their agreement.
The 49-51 vote fell short of the 60 needed to advance what is effectively stand-in legislation that senators will swap the bipartisan group’s text into once it is finished. Wednesday’s vote comes as the bipartisan group had a round-the-clock meeting, including late into Tuesday night and again on Wednesday, as they try to lock down their deal, after announcing at the White House late last month with President Biden that they had agreed to a $1.2-trillion, eight-year framework.
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Schumer, speaking on Wednesday ahead of the vote, asked Republicans to let them start debate on the bipartisan track, arguing that he and Democrats didn’t view it as a hard deadline for the bipartisan talks. “This vote is only the first step in the legislative process on the Senate floor. It is merely a vote about whether the Senate is ready to begin debating a bipartisan infrastructure bill. I have also been very clear about what this vote is not: This vote is not a deadline to have every final detail worked out. It is not an attempt to jam anyone,” Schumer said.
Schumer’s message was not sufficient to re-assure Republicans. “I think it’s a meaningless exercise,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the bipartisan group, told reporters shortly before Wednesday’s vote. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said Schumer was “intent on calling a vote that he knows will fail.”
“These discussions have yet to conclude. There’s no outcome yet. … So, obviously, if the Democratic leader tries to force a cloture vote on a bill that does not exist, it will fail,” McConnell said. The bipartisan group has been holding nearly daily meetings to try to finalize the agreement amid a rolling struggle over how to pay for the deal. While the agreement costs $1.2 trillion over eight years, it only includes $579 billion in new spending.