WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked Democrats’ attempt to start formal debate on a bipartisan infrastructure plan, arguing that Democrats are rushing the procedural vote before the final bill has been written.
The Senate failed, 49-51, to overcome the 60-vote threshold required to overcome a GOP filibuster.
But the move may only amount to a short delay for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan as at least 10 Republicans said they would support the vote if it comes up again on Monday, when they expect to have an agreement on the final details.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., forced the vote as a means of speeding up negotiations, which have dragged on since a tentative agreement was reached between Biden and a bipartisan group of senators nearly a month ago.
“Today we’re not going to be able to support moving forward,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Wednesday morning on CNBC. “We just want time to get it right. It’s too important for us to rush a vote for an arbitrary deadline.”
Negotiations appear to be moving ahead, even if not as fast as Schumer would like. Portman committed to supporting a vote to start debate if one is held Monday. “We’ll be ready to go,” he said.
Portman said 11 Republicans gave Schumer their commitment in the form of a letter.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., a centrist who has been a leader in the negotiations, expressed confidence that the group was nearing an agreement that would get support.
“I feel very good about where we are and where we’re headed,” he said.
If Democrats succeed Monday, the vote will mark the start of formal Senate consideration of the first piece of Biden’s Build Back Better plan, an ambitious, $4.1 trillion infrastructure proposal that would build roads, water pipes and broadband internet networks as well as reshape the nation’s safety net.
Democrats are trying to enact the plan in two parts. The bipartisan plan, which amounts to $579 billion in new spending and nearly $1.2 trillion overall, would invest in the so-called hard infrastructure projects.
The rest of Biden’s plan, about $3.5 trillion, would be approved under a separate special procedure that doesn’t allow for a Republican filibuster.
That portion of the plan includes an ambitious list of new and expanded social programs, such as child and elder care and enhanced Medicare benefits. Because Republicans oppose that plan, Democrats will need to rely solely on their own caucus for the votes.
Schumer’s attempt to speed things up has rubbed Republicans the wrong way, with several GOP negotiators saying it was not right to hold a vote on a bill that doesn’t yet exist.
But Schumer is leery of letting the infrastructure deal simmer all summer. “They’ve been working on this bipartisan framework for more than a month already and it’s time to begin the debate,” he said Tuesday.
The bipartisan group and White House aides have been huddling on Capitol Hill and in Zoom meetings in recent weeks to flesh out the details of the plan. One method of paying for about $100 billion worth of the bill — asking the IRS to raise money by better enforcing tax laws — was scrapped amid GOP opposition.