Republicans Say Schumer's Infrastructure Vote Will Fail

Republicans Say Schumer's Infrastructure Vote Will Fail


President Joe Biden’s economic agenda may be hanging in the balance this week as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) looks to force a test vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill that is still being negotiated.

Schumer is gambling, looking to advance both the infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that Democrats will try to pass without Republican votes and get it all done ahead of a scheduled August recess. “The hardball move,” Punchbowl News reports, “is meant to test whether Republicans who say they want bipartisanship mean it — but also to strong-arm his own ideologically diverse caucus into line on the massive, Democrats-only reconciliation bill.”

Senate Republicans are warning that if Schumer presses ahead with his deadline, the vote will fail. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), a member of the bipartisan group negotiating the legislation, said there is “no way” they can finish pulling crafting the bill by Wednesday.

A $100 billion hole: Negotiators are still scrambling to finalize the bipartisan infrastructure bill, trying to fill a $100 billion hole in the plan’s financing now that a proposal to beef up IRS collection of unpaid taxes has been pulled from the package.

They are reportedly considering reversing a Trump-era policy that seeks to eliminate rebates drug companies give to pharmacy benefit managers in Medicare Part D. The rule has yet to be implemented, but the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2019 that it would increase federal Medicare spending by $177 billion over a decade, meaning that reversing or delaying it could be a source of savings. Including the provision in the infrastructure deal means that Democrats wouldn’t be able to use it in their bill, though.

The bipartisan negotiators reportedly also still have differences across nearly every category in the bill, ranging from roads and transit to water and power.

Senate Republicans are insisting that they won’t vote to begin debate on the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework” if the text isn’t ready, arguing that Schumer is unnecessarily rushing them. “We need to see the bill before voting to go to it. I think that’s pretty easily understood,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters Monday. Republicans will also be looking for an official estimate of the fiscal impact of the legislation from the Congressional Budget Office.

Democrats, meanwhile, worry that the GOP is trying to drag out the process and make it harder to pass the separate $3.5 trillion spending package. And they point out that Republicans have in the past supported opening debate on legislation that was still not final, including the Endless Frontier Act just last month. Republicans say the infrastructure package is far more substantial than that bill, which was aimed at improving competitiveness with China.

Biden on Monday called for lawmakers to unite behind the infrastructure framework. “We shook hands on it,” he said, pushing back against fears that additional government spending would worsen inflation by arguing that his economic agenda would help to lower prices and create jobs.

“If we make a prudent, multi-year investments in better roads, bridges, transit systems, and high-speed Internet, and a modern, resilient electric grid, here’s what will happen: It breaks up the bottlenecks in our economy,” Biden said. “Goods get to consumers more rapidly and less expensively. Small businesses create and innovate much more seamlessly. If we increase the availability of quality, affordable childcare, eldercare, paid leave, more people will enter the workforce. These steps will enhance our productivity — raising wages without raising prices.”

Why it matters: A failed vote this week wouldn’t necessarily signal doom for the infrastructure package, but it could throw off Democrats’ timeline for the infrastructure legislation — and risks alienating Republicans in the bipartisan group.

What’s next: Schumer was expected to file cloture Monday evening on the infrastructure bill, setting up the Wednesday vote. The bipartisan group, which continued talks over the weekend, was also expected to meet again Monday night.