Miami Herald

GOP senators block debate on initial infrastruc­ture bill

- BY LISA MASCARO AND KEVIN FREKING

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.

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