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Sen. Rob Portman. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) criticized Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday for setting an "arbitrary deadline" to move forward with a bipartisan infrastructure proposal.

Why it matters: Portman is a key Republican negotiator, yet Senate leadership aides tell Axios that Schumer won't back away from beginning procedural steps to move the bill — still unwritten — forward this week.

  • Schumer is racing against the clock to pass a pair of infrastructure bills before the August recess — and ensuring the bipartisan bill sees floor action this week is necessary for the Senate to meet its self-imposed deadline.
  • Schumer's team has made clear the vote the leader has scheduled for Wednesday is solely on the vehicle for moving the measure, not the contents of the bill itself.

What they're saying: “We are still negotiating," Portman said on CNN's "State of the Union." "(L)ater today, we will be having additional negotiations with the Republicans and Democrats who have come together to put this bill into a track that's very unusual for Washington."

  • "Chuck Schumer, with all due respect, is not writing the bill, nor is (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell, by the way. So, that's why we shouldn't have an arbitrary deadline of Wednesday. We should bring the legislation forward when it's ready."

A senior Senate Democratic aide told Axios: “There’s ample time and no reason why the bipartisan group can’t come to an agreement by Wednesday.”

  • The Senate has done this before, the aide added, pointing to the China-focused "U.S. Innovation and Competition" bill.
  • During that process, there wasn’t an agreement on legislation, but senators kicked off the process anyway by moving to proceed on the Endless Frontier Act.
  • Members knew it was a substitute while they negotiated the final bill.

The bottom line: The bipartisan group is hoping to get final text of the bill completed by the time the Senate reconvenes Monday night.

  • Talks are going well, sources familiar with the negotiations tell Axios, but it's always the final stretch that's the hardest to complete.

Go deeper

Sep 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop - Manchin: Delay Biden plan to '22

Sen. Joe Manchin walks through the Capitol Visitor Center last week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is privately saying he thinks Congress should take a “strategic pause” until 2022 before voting on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social-spending package, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Manchin’s new timeline — if he insists on it — would disrupt the plans by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to vote on the budget reconciliation package this month.

Pelosi's back-to-school math problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may need votes from an unlikely source — the Republican Party — if she hopes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by next Monday, as she's promised Democratic centrists.

Why it matters: With at least 20 progressives threatening to vote against the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, centrist members are banking on more than 10 Republicans to approve the bill.

Schumer: Deportation of Haitian asylum-seekers "defies common sense"

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrives for a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol, Sept.20. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday condemned the Biden administration's deportation of Haitian immigrants, saying the move "defies common sense."

The big picture: The U.S. is deporting the immigrants under the Trump-era Title 42 policy that Schumer called "hateful and xenophobic." The government has used Title 42 to accelerate deportations during the pandemic.