Jul 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Infrastructure's do-or-die moment

Illustration of a steamroller about to flatten legislation.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A host of new problems emerged Monday morning threatening whether the Group of 10 can actually make this "infrastructure week" after all.

Why it matters: This is the bill's do-or-die moment.

  • August recesses in both chambers are here.
  • Senators are scheduled to break in two weeks — a deadline sure to be blown after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) made clear he wants to pass both a bipartisan bill and a budget resolution before letting members head home.
  • Schumer said Monday afternoon he's prepared to keep the Senate in session this weekend to finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill: “It’s time for everyone to get to yes,” he announced on the floor.

Between the lines: It’s still unclear whether this 11th-hour infighting is just run-of-the-mill posturing amid the final negotiations, or actually a danger sign for the bill.

  • Two Democratic Senate aides familiar with the talks sent Axios this tweet from Bloomberg's Steve Dennis, which jokes that typical deals in Congress always start with a series of "no's"; then an agreement on a framework; then another string of "no's"; and then a "yes" on a final deal.
  • There's merit in Steve's argument — the final stretch of any substantial legislation is always the hardest to complete.
  • The bipartisan group is in that cauldron right now.

The big question: At what point does Schumer bail and turn to a catchall, Democrats-only reconciliation bill?

  • Axios reporting signals if there isn't at a minimum full text of the bill this week, let alone substantial floor action, then the Democratic leadership is likely to abandon ship and move on.
  • That can only happen, though, if Schumer ensures moderate Democratic senators — read: Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — agree with that plan.
  • A huge reason Schumer has let the bipartisan talks continue so long is to cater to the two senators, whose votes are crucial to passing a Democrats-only bill in a 50-50 split Senate.

Behind the scenes: On Sunday, members of the group of negotiators were publicly optimistic they were closing in on final text, but behind the scenes, aides to the various senators were taking potshots at each other — anonymously.

  • A series of sniping quotes from both sides was circulated to reporters, on background, collectively frustrating members of the group.
  • Republicans claimed the Democrats' “global offer” was an unrealistic proposal — some aides went so far as to characterize it as offensive — that reopened talks in areas supposedly settled, including baseline spending, Davis-Bacon, broadband and more.
  • Democrats came back and said Republicans weren't negotiating in good faith.
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