Infrastructure Proposal Faces Key Vote Wednesday

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 24, 2021.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 24, 2021. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

 

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Sen. Chuck Schumer scheduled a procedural vote on the bipartisan infrastructure framework even as lawmakers scurry to finish a draft of the legislation.

The Senate will move forward with a key vote on the bipartisan infrastructure framework Wednesday, despite warnings from Republicans that they won’t support the measure until the bill is written.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced late Monday that he had scheduled a procedural “cloture” vote on a shell bill that would allow lawmakers to begin debate. If lawmakers can hammer out legislative text for the infrastructure bill by Thursday, Schumer said he would substitute that for the shell bill.

But if lawmakers are unable to come to an agreement, he plans to instead swap in four smaller pieces of infrastructure legislation that have cleared their respective committees.

“They have been working on the bipartisan framework for more than a month already and it’s time to begin the debate,” Schumer said during a speech on the Senate floor Monday night.

Republicans have said moving forward on such a monumental piece of legislation without legislative text is too tall an ask.

“There’s no bill. You can’t expect that many Republicans to move forward on a pretty vague concept,” Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, told Politico.

Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who has led talks with Democrats about the framework, called it absurd to move forward without an agreement on actual legislation.

"People need to know what's in it. That's only fair, right," Portman told The Hill.

The bills that Schumer will substitute if no agreement is reached include the water infrastructure bill passed by the Senate; a surface infrastructure bill advanced by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; a rail bill advanced by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; and an energy infrastructure bill advanced by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

One of the major sticking points on the infrastructure package is how to pay for the $1.2 trillion proposal. Finance experts have questioned whether the mishmash of possible funding sources outlined in a White House proposal will be enough to pay for the project.

At least one possible financing proposal was ruled out this week.

The infrastructure framework had included funding for the Internal Revenue Service to beef up investigations and enforcement so the agency could recover more money from non filers and high-income tax cheats. But Portman confirmed over the weekend that the IRS funding would be dropped from the infrastructure package.

Some Democrats in the House have also raised concern about the way the infrastructure proposal is progressing, angered that they feel they were left out.

Support From the White House 

Despite frustration on both sides of the aisle, the White House said Tuesday it supports Sen. Schumer’s efforts to move the infrastructure plan forward.

“Progress is continuing to be made and we back Sen. Schumer’s efforts to get this to the floor as soon as possible,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

She noted that other pieces of legislation have advanced in a similar manner this year.

“There is nothing abnormal on holding a vote on a vehicle to allow consideration at this point. We believe there should be support for it tomorrow,” she said, adding that President Biden has continued to hold discussions with both Republicans and Democrats along the way.

“The only disagreement right now is around some pay fors, which we are working through,” Psaki said of the negotiations.

She declined to speculate Tuesday on what next steps the White House would take if the cloture vote is defeated Wednesday.

“We will see where we go,” she said.  

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty.

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