Jul 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Republicans sink key procedural vote on bipartisan infrastructure package

Sen. Chuck Schumer

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A key procedural vote meant to advance the bipartisan "hard" infrastructure package failed 49-51 on Wednesday after Senate Republicans came together to sink the measure.

Driving the news: A core bipartisan group of senators have been negotiating for months and given how close they are to a deal, senators tell Axios they do not expect this to be the last vote on the $1.2 trillion package.

Between the lines: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) scheduled Wednesday's vote in an effort to apply pressure on those lawmakers involved in negotiations to wrap up their talks.

  • Time is running out for the group if they want to meet their self-imposed deadline of passing it before August recess.
  • Republicans — including those involved in the bipartisan talks — wouldn't vote yet for the measure given the bill has yet to be written. Many lawmakers are also waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to analyze the cost, which will take days to complete one the text is finalized.
  • Schumer, recognizing their concerns, tried to placate Republicans by repeatedly insisting that the vote was solely on "the vehicle" for the package — meant to allow the Senate to begin debating parts of the proposal that both parties have already agreed to.
  • That was enough to get all 50 Democrats — including key moderates like Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) — on board. But it wasn't enough to sway most GOP members in favor.
  • Schumer voted "No" in order to bring the bill back up again.
  • 11 Republican senators had sent a letter to Schumer prior to Wednesday's vote asking him to delay it until Monday, when they believe they'll be ready to advance the package. Schumer went ahead with the vote anyway.

Behind the scenes: The core group of senators involved in negotiations huddled for several hours on the first floor of the Capitol last night hashing out the remaining sticking points of the bill.

  • The negotiators remain stuck on how to pay for the package.
  • But lawmakers were optimistic on Wednesday they would have a deal soon.
  • Following the vote, bipartisan group released a statement that said they have been making "significant progress."
  • "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 to strengthen America’s infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in the coming days," the senators said.

What to watch: Schumer also set today as a deadline for all Democrats to agree on the framework for the party's $3.5 budget reconciliation bill, which will deal with "soft" infrastructure, such as expanding Medicare and child care and tackling climate change.

  • Axios reported last night that Democrats involved in drafting the mammoth package have a contingency plan in place if the bipartisan talks fail: wrapping the nearly $600 billion "hard" infrastructure bill into the broader reconciliation package, and keeping the total price tag at $4.1 trillion.
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