Schumer Strong-Arms Negotiators On Infrastructure And Budget Deal Inspiring Republican Revolt

Schumer Strong-Arms Negotiators On Infrastructure And Budget Deal Inspiring Republican Revolt

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CNN —  

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set a key deadline next week to force his caucus to agree on a $3.5 trillion budget package and to pressure a bipartisan group of negotiators to finalize an infrastructure deal, a high-stakes gambit that has huge implications for President Joe Biden’s agenda but was already frustrating Republicans.

Schumer announced Thursday that he plans to set up the first procedural vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill for next Wednesday. At the same time, Schumer also set next Wednesday as a deadline for the entire Senate Democratic caucus to agree to move forward on their separate, partisan multi-trillion budget resolution aimed at many key aspects of Biden’s legislative priorities.

“Today I’m announcing that I intend to file cloture on the vehicle for a bipartisan infrastructure bill on Monday of next week,” Schumer said in floor remarks, explaining that on Monday he would take procedural steps to set up the Wednesday vote, where 60 votes would be needed to open debate on the bipartisan bill.

“Senators will have until Wednesday of next week before the initial vote on cloture on the motion to process,” the Democrat from New York continued. “Everyone has been having productive conversations and it’s important to keep the two-track process moving. All parties involved in the bipartisan infrastructure bill talks must now finalize their agreement so that the Senate can begin to consider that legislation next week.”

This is an effort by Schumer to strong-arm negotiators to reach a bipartisan deal that had once appeared close at hand, but several important sticking points remain unresolved, particularly on the pay-fors for the $1 trillion package, which Biden has backed. But it remains unclear whether senators will be able to meet this self-imposed deadline.

However, Republicans rebelled against Schumer’s announcement, an early indication that the bipartisan talks could be in danger of falling apart altogether. With negotiations over the bill still underway, a handful of Republicans say they don’t even know if the legislation will be ready in time for a vote and that it is premature to set a deadline given the state of the talks.

Asked directly if he would vote yes on a procedural vote if the bill text wasn’t ready, Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah and a member of the bipartisan talks, said it would be a “dereliction of duty” to advance a bill that had not been written.

“We are certainly not going to vote on a bill that hasn’t been drafted yet,” Romney said.

Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican and another member of the group, said he wouldn’t vote “yes” unless the bill was completed.

“I’m not gonna vote yes if we don’t have a product,” Portman told CNN. “We’re gonna get it right.”

If the Wednesday vote succeeds, the Senate would be on the bill, which would allow Schumer to then file a substitute amendment, which would be the agreed-to bipartisan bill.

Schumer continues to reiterate that the two-track strategy has a long, bumpy road ahead as Democrats try to move two infrastructure packages through the Senate, one bipartisan and another that includes much of Biden’s agenda items. Schumer has called for “total agreement” on both before moving on either bill.

The vote next week is just a procedural vote to begin the debate, but Republicans are viewing Schumer’s tactic as undermining the process and warn it could lead the negotiations to crumble.

“It’s laughable,” Sen. John Cornyn, a member of Republican leadership, told CNN. “I don’t know if he is setting the bipartisan bill up to fail so he can then move to the reconciliation bill or what.”

Shortly after Schumer’s announcement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell went on Fox News and blasted the Democrats’ spending plans as “wildly inappropriate for the country, totally out of bounds for what ought to be done.

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