GOP senators block debate on initial infrastructure bill
Senate Republicans rejected an effort Wednesday to begin debate on the big infrastructure deal that a bipartisan group of senators brokered with President Joe Biden. But supporters in both parties remained hopeful of a better chance soon.
Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York had scheduled the procedural vote that he described as a step to ”get the ball rolling” as talks progress. But Republicans mounted a filibuster, saying the bipartisan group needed more time to wrap up the deal and review the details. They sought a delay until Monday.
“We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement,” the informal group of 22 senators, Republicans and Democrats, said in a joint statement after the vote.
They said they were working to “get this critical legislation right” and were optimistic they could finish up “in the coming days.”
The nearly $1 trillion measure over five years includes about $579 billion in new spending on roads, broadband and other public works projects — a first phase of Biden’s infrastructure agenda, to be followed by a much broader $3.5 trillion second measure from Democrats next month.
The party-line vote was 51-49 against proceeding, far short of the 60 “yes” votes needed to get past the Republicans’ block. The Democratic leader switched his vote to “no” at the end, a procedural step that would allow him to move to reconsider.
Six months after Biden took office, his signature “Build Back Better” campaign promise is at a key moment that will test the presidency and his hopes for a new era of bipartisan cooperation in Washington.
Biden, who headed to Ohio later Wednesday to promote his economic policies, is calling his infrastructure agenda a “bluecollar blueprint for building an American economy back.” He has said that Americans are overwhelmingly in support of his plan.
However, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said big spending is “the last thing American families need.”
White House aides and the bipartisan group of senators have huddled privately every day since Sunday trying to wrap up the deal, which would be a first phase of an eventual $4 trillion-plus package of domestic outlays — not just for roads and bridges, but foundations of everyday life including child care, family tax breaks, education and an expansion of Medicare for seniors.
A core group of Republicans are interested in pursuing a more modest package of traditional highway and public works projects, about $600 billion in new funds, and say they just need more time to negotiate with Democrats and the White House.