- Senate Republicans are blocking formal debate on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
- Senator Mitt Romney said a dozen Republicans could support the bill, once drafted.
- Another vote could take place on Monday, after negotiators drafted the text of the bill.
WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked the start of formal debate on bipartisan infrastructure legislation, a key part of President Joe Biden’s economic plan, as the text and cost of the bill were not available while negotiations continued.
The 51-49 vote against the start of the debate, which had to cross a 60-vote threshold to succeed, came after a series of late-night negotiations. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., changed his vote to help defeat the measure so he can be on the dominant side to call him for another vote in the future. Senators continue to haggle over shipping details and how to pay for the entire package.
But senators from both parties called the setback temporary, and another vote was expected on Monday. This would give the negotiators time to draft the bill and determine how much it would cost.
“We are optimistic that once we have passed this vote today, we will continue our work and be ready in the next few days with a bill drafted and noted,” said Senator Susan Collins, R- Maine. .
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Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he expects a dozen GOP senators to support the legislation. Eleven Republicans signed a letter to Schumer pledging to support the debate on Monday.
“A few areas are going to be worked on today and tomorrow, but I’m assuming it’ll all be finished early next week, and we’ll have another vote,” Romney said.
Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., a decisive vote, said the remaining differences will be resolved.
“Everything seems to be working out,” Manchin said.
The 22-member bipartisan negotiating group released a statement after the vote saying a final deal is near.
“We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement,” the statement said. “We will continue to work hard to ensure that this critical legislation is correct – and we are optimistic about the finalization and preparation of this historic bipartisan proposal.”
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Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second Democrat in the Senate, was disappointed with the vote.
“It is unfortunate that we could not agree to just start the debate today,” he said. “We are ready to put people to work to build and repair roads, bridges and other essential infrastructure. I still hope we can achieve this, with the support previously suggested by my Republican colleagues, without further delays. “
Schumer timed the vote to spur talks that have already gone on for a month.
“This vote is not a deadline to sort out all the final details,” he said. “This is not an attempt to block anyone.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Predicted the vote would fail for lack of legislation.
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“This coup is doomed to failure,” he said hours before the vote.
The legislation aims to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to build roads, bridges, railroads and broadband, as part of Biden’s broader economic priorities.
Negotiations have been going on late into the night on a regular basis in recent days, ending at 11 p.m. on Tuesday. Lawmakers on both sides called the talks productive and said dozens of disputes had been resolved.
While the bipartisan measure generally enjoys broad support, Republicans are wary of Democratic plans to pass larger spending legislation totaling $ 3.5 trillion for provisions such as extending insurance. -disease and two-year community college funding for Americans.
Schumer reiterated on Wednesday that his plan was to vote on both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $ 3.5 trillion package before leaving for the August recess.
“This is the schedule that I intend to stick to,” he said.
Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Said all 50 senators would vote to start debate on the $ 3.5 trillion package.
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“Ultimately, we’ll have all 50 on board for the most important family bill in modern history,” Sanders said.
But McConnell called the combination of the bills a “tax frenzy and reckless spending” and said the legislation “would crush our country with a historic string of sweeping tax hikes.”
Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., Told reporters on Tuesday night that the time would be worth it if the bill was successful, after “the twists and turns and the number of times we’ve come close to death.”
“I wouldn’t ruin your nights so many times in a row if I didn’t think this was going to happen,” Warner said.