Infrastructure week continues
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) finalized plans Monday night to hold a test vote Wednesday on the bipartisan infrastructure deal still being hammered out, nearly a month after a group of senators and President Biden agreed on the framework. Wednesday's vote "is not a deadline to determine every final detail of the bill," Schumer said Monday. "All a yes vote on the motion to proceed simply means that the Senate is ready to begin debating and amending a bipartisan infrastructure bill. No more, no less."
Schumer's test vote is meant to put pressure on the 10 Senate negotiators to finalize their deal and to test the sincerity of the GOP negotiators, especially after Republicans vetoed increased funding for IRS tax-fraud enforcement, a key means of paying for the package. Chief GOP negotiator Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said progress is being made and, like many GOP colleagues, threatened to vote no Wednesday if the legislation isn't on paper.
Schumer's "not going to get 60, let's put it that way," Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said Monday. "The legislation is not drafted, the pay-fors are a long ways away." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters "we need to see the bill before we decide whether or not to vote for it."
Despite the GOP protests, holding a vote on unfinished legislation is "a tried-and-true strategy for both parties," Politico notes. When McConnell was majority leader, "Republicans kicked off their drive to repeal ObamaCare with a vote on proceeding to an unwritten bill; just this Congress, senators in both parties advanced hate crimes and competitiveness legislation before it was finished."
"It will probably become clear within days whether the back-and-forth is the usual last-minute haggling before a complex deal comes together in Congress or something more ominous," The Washington Post adds.
"If there's no finalized deal and the procedural vote fails, senators said they would still continue to work on the infrastructure legislation," Politico says. And "if the bipartisan talks end up fully imploding, Democrats can roll the group's work into their unilateral spending bill that's still being written, with a top line price tag of $3.5 trillion." Schumer said his timeline, including Wednesday's vote, is backed by all five Democrats negotiating the bipartisan package.
"I still believe Chuck's got the right schedule," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). And if Wednesday's vote fails, "what the hell? Keep us here in August."