Republicans Block Debate On Bipartisan Infrastructure Package

GOP senators opposed starting debate on a $1.1 trillion spending bill on roads and bridges because negotiators have yet to agree on the legislative text.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked debate on a bipartisan infrastructure package that includes $1.1 trillion in spending aimed at overhauling the nation’s roads, bridges and waterways.

The procedural vote to advance the bill was 49-51, with every Republican opposed. It needed 60 votes to pass. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also voted no in a procedural move that will allow him to call it up for a vote again.

GOP senators said that bipartisan negotiators should come to a final agreement on the legislative text and how the spending is to be financed before the Senate moves to consider the measure. They urged Schumer to postpone the vote until next week to give negotiators more time.

“This stunt is set to fail. The Democratic Leader will be free to change his vote and move to reconsider whenever a bipartisan product actually exists,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a floor speech ahead of the vote.

Schumer said Wednesday’s vote was simply on whether to begin consideration of a bill. He added that he could amend the measure later with actual text when it is ready.

The bipartisan group of 20 senators ― 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats ― have been negotiating for months over the bill. While they made some progress this week, they’ve yet to reach an agreement on how to fully pay for it, a perennial problem amid the infrastructure debate in Washington.

“We will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right — and are optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal ... in the coming days,” they said in a statement issued after the failed vote on Wednesday.

Notably, they did not say when the agreement would be ready. Senators have said they were “close” to a deal for weeks.

Meanwhile, Democrats are facing a looming August recess that could derail their plan to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a separate $3.5 trillion “human” infrastructure package. They also have a pile of other legislative business to tackle when they return to Washington in September. The legislative calendar crunch is partly why Schumer moved to jump-start the process this week by scheduling Wednesday’s vote before a final agreement had been reached.

“I have every intention of passing both major infrastructure packages — the bipartisan infrastructure framework and a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions — before we leave for the August recess,” Schumer said Wednesday. “That’s the schedule I laid out at the end of June. That’s the schedule I intend to stick to.”

It’s not clear, however, if Schumer has support from all of his members for advancing the $3.5 trillion measure yet ― especially with the bipartisan bill unfinished. The broader package includes money for housing, nutrition, climate, health care, immigration and child care.

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