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Senate Republicans poised to block vote on infrastructure bill Wednesday but negotiations will continue

By Alex Rogers and Manu Raju, CNN

Updated: Tue, 20 Jul 2021 23:19:02 GMT

Source: CNN

Senate Republicans are expected to block a vote Wednesday advancing a massive bipartisan infrastructure bill since they have not yet struck a deal with Democrats to draft the legislation.

But lawmakers said that even with the expected failure of Wednesday's vote, talks would continue to intensify over the next few days with the goal of trying again to advance the $1.2 trillion measure by early next week.

Two key Republicans — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman — said they'd oppose the procedural vote Wednesday, calling for more time to negotiate the bill.

"I think that's where everybody is," Romney said.

"It won't be done tonight," Portman added Tuesday.

The effort is one piece of the larger effort to advance the White House's sweeping economic agenda, with Democrats also laying the groundwork to advance a $3.5 trillion package to expand the social safety net. Democrats have suggested that some elements of this bipartisan plan could be rolled into the larger package if they can't advance the narrower measure. But taking that tack could turn off moderate Democrats who are already wary of the eye-popping price tag.

Republican senators told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a letter on Tuesday to postpone the vote until they secure a bipartisan agreement and write the bill. A Senate GOP source with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN all 50 Republicans would likely vote no on Wednesday, but expected that all of the issues would be resolved by Monday, and at least 10 Republican senators would support advancing the legislation then.

Schumer, a Democrat from New York, set up a test vote to open debate on the legislation, arguing that the vote would simply set the stage for considering the bill once negotiators have finalized the agreement.

At a private lunch Tuesday, Schumer suggested he would be willing to tee up another procedural vote if it fails Wednesday, multiple Democratic sources said. But while most Democrats support Schumer's strategy, one Democrat has stood out: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

He urged Schumer to delay the vote until Monday to give more time for the talks to proceed, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. Schumer said he and Manchin would talk, another source said.

Manchin told CNN that Schumer was "committed" to getting the bill passed. Even if the vote fails, as expected, he believes Schumer will try to force another vote when talks have been finalized.

The majority leader has said that if the senators don't draft the bill by Thursday, he would offer a bill consisting of relatively noncontroversial provisions, so the Senate could open a floor debate on a key priority for the Biden administration.

"I understand that both sides are working very hard to turn the bipartisan infrastructure framework into final legislation, and they will continue to have more time to debate, amend and perfect the bill once the Senate votes to take up this crucial issue," Schumer said. "But they have been working on this bipartisan framework for more than a month already, and it's time to begin the debate."

In June, the White House and a bipartisan Senate group agreed to a $579 billion in new spending to build roads, bridges, railroads and airports, along with water, power and broadband infrastructure projects.

But lawmakers have since struggled over how to pay for the massive investment, and have made their task even harder by agreeing to scrap a provision that would have strengthened the Internal Revenue Service's ability to collect unpaid taxes, which would've raised up to $100 billion in government revenue. They also haven't resolved how much transit funding to provide, according to the Senate GOP source.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune predicted that the vote Wednesday will fail and that all Republicans would stick together, and charged Schumer was making a major mistake by moving ahead with it.

"This seems to be a counterproductive move on his part," Thune said.

The Democrats have set up two-track negotiations to broadly address the country's infrastructure needs. The first involves the emerging bipartisan plan. The second is a $3.5 trillion Democratic proposal that would include other priorities many Republicans oppose, such as offering paid medical and family leave and potentially even overhauling the country's immigration system.

But Manchin has also balked at some of the provisions for the Democratic-only bill.

Manchin would not say Tuesday if he would agree to move ahead with the $3.5 trillion budget resolution. Schumer had asked for assurances that all 50 Dems would be on board by Wednesday.

Manchin, however, said Schumer "never asked that at all." He told CNN that he is "absolutely" concerned about the provisions that would threaten the production of fossil fuels but had yet to see a "final draft" of the bill.


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