GOP blocks debate on $1.2 trillion spending plan in blow to Schumer, Biden

Jul 21, 2021
GOP blocks debate on $1.2 trillion spending plan in blow to Schumer, Biden

Republicans in the Senate on Wednesday defeated a procedural vote brought by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to begin debate on the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, dealing a potentially crucial blow to President Biden’s agenda.

The vote failed 51 to 49.

With the Senate evenly split at 50-50, Democrats needed 10 Republicans to vote with them to reach the 60-vote threshold to end cloture and begin debate.

Schumer said he ultimately voted against the motion — which he had been urged to delay — so that he would be able to reintroduce it at another time.

The 22 Republican and Democratic senators who have been negotiating the deal said in a statement that the work to hammer out a deal will continue in a statement.

“We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement. We will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right – and are optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) posted on Twitter moments after the vote.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Schumer assured him he will reintroduce the motion if the lawmakers on the negotiating team can marshal the 60 votes required to break the filibuster.

Republican lawmakers, including those who negotiated the plan with Democrats and the White House, had asked Schumer to postpone the vote so that talks could continue on how to pay for the package and work out the details of what’s in it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other GOP senators speak to reporters ahead of a test vote scheduled by Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York on the bipartisan infrastructure deal.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP senators speak to reporters ahead of a test vote scheduled by Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on the bipartisan infrastructure deal.
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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Democrats hoped to pass the infrastructure bill with bipartisan support in the Senate and then follow up by moving a $3.5 trillion spending package that includes funds for education, climate change, Medicaid and other social programs through reconciliation, which allows them to bypass Republicans altogether.

The cloture vote came as Biden boarded Air Force One for Cincinnati, Ohio, where he planned to pitch the infrastructure deal as part of his “Build Back Better” campaign promise.

But even moderate Republicans urged Schumer to delay the vote and expressed reservations about the effect the massive spending bill would have on the economy, which is already showing strains of inflation, and how to pay for the initiatives.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has been involved in the negotiations, said he believed some of his Republican colleagues would climb on board if some of the outstanding issues are worked out.

“There’s a couple of areas that are going to be worked on today and tomorrow, but I presume it’ll all be done by early next week, and we will have another vote I hope next week, and we’ll be able to proceed to the bill. We have enough Republicans that, you know 10 or 12 or more Republicans, that are supportive of going on the bill,” Romney told reporters earlier Wednesday.

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Another of the GOP negotiators, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, said Republicans will vote no on the procedural vote.

“We’ve told him we’re not ready, so we’re gonna vote no, but we will be ready by the end of this week. And we’ve always thought that,” Portman said in an interview on CNBC. “We still have four or five issues we’re discussing with the White House and negotiating with our Democratic colleagues.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said members of his party will find it difficult to vote on the bill without knowing what’s in it.

“Around here, we typically write the bills before we vote on them,” he said.

But Schumer, in a damn-the-torpedoes stance, vowed that the vote would proceed at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday despite Republicans’ deep reservations.

“My colleagues are well aware that we often agree to move forward with debates on issues before we have the text in hand,” Schumer said. “We’ve done it twice this year already.”

Schumer planned to use a “shell bill” because negotiations are continuing and the text hasn’t been finished.

Once completed, the “shell bill” could be swapped out for the completed version.

A group of 22 bipartisan senators have been negotiating the intricacies of the infrastructure plan over the past couple of weeks, but have been largely stymied by disagreement over the pay-fors.

With Post wires

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Raymond Hicks

With a knack for storytelling, Raymond started The Madison Leader Gazette about a year ago. Covering substantial topics under the US & World section, he helps information seep in deeper with creative writing and content management skills.