Schumer says Senate will act on bipartisan infrastructure bill next week
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Washington — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday to finalize their infrastructure proposal, saying that the Senate will begin procedural votes for the bill next week.
Schumer announced that he will file cloture on a bill that will serve as a “vehicle” for the package on Monday, setting it up for consideration. The Senate will then vote on cloture, which would limit debate, with a motion to proceed on Wednesday. That vote requires 60 votes to advance — meaning that it will have to garner support from all 50 Democrats as well as at least 10 Republicans.
“All parties involved in the bipartisan infrastructure bill talks must now finalize their agreement so that the Senate can begin considering that legislation next week,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor.
Schumer’s specification that the vote will be on a vehicle for the proposal, a House bill, means that the language for the Senate bipartisan proposal does not actually have to be ready by Wednesday, as it can be inserted later during the amendment process. But he is imposing a deadline for any outstanding issues among the bipartisan group to be resolved. Time is quickly running out ahead of the August recess, when lawmakers are scheduled to leave Washington for several weeks.
Senators involved in the bipartisan discussion had previously set a self-imposed deadline of ironing out any remaining areas of disagreement by Thursday.
But some Republicans argued that it was counterproductive for Schumer to say he would bring a vehicle for the bill to the floor next week. Even Republicans who would likely support the bill may vote against cloture, because they aren’t willing to vote on the shell of a bill if the legislative text has not been finalized.
“I think setting artificial deadlines is going to make it harder, not easier. Because even people on our side who might be inclined to vote for a bill, I don’t think are going to vote to get on a bill they haven’t seen,” Republican Senator John Thune, the minority whip, told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Senator Mitt Romney, one of the key Republican negotiators, said it was a “dereliction of duty to vote on something that hasn’t been drafted yet.”
“We’re proceeding with negotiations. We’re working out issues, we’re drafting, that’s proceeding, and we probably should reach a point where people know what they’re voting on,” Romney said.
Senator Rob Portman, who has led negotiations on the Republican side, said that “we’re going to get it right.”
“We think there’s an opening now to get it done, but we’re not going to shortchange the process, because it’s important to get it right,” Portman said. “We’re moving as quickly as we can.”
GOP Senator Bill Cassidy, another negotiator, said that he didn’t believe Schumer’s deadline “helps or hurts,” noting to reporters that “you can’t put more pressure on us than we feel internally.”
Democratic Senator Jon Tester told reporters that he saw Schumer’s deadline as an “opportunity to push us to get a deal so we can get it on the floor.”
“Time is of the essence. If you look at the clock, time is going to be the big problem,” Tester said. When asked about the outstanding points of disagreement, Tester said there were “more than I got fingers to count, but they’re all small.”
Schumer also imposed Wednesday as a deadline for all Senate Democrats “to agree to move forward” on a budget resolution laying out the instructions for crafting a separate $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. Democrats on the Budget Committee earlier this week announced an agreement on the bill, which will include several of President Biden’s priorities not included in the bipartisan proposal. As the wide-ranging bill will not garner any Republican support, Democrats are hoping to pass it through reconciliation, which allows legislation to be approved with a simple majority vote.
Aaron Navarro contributed to this report.