As predicted, the preliminary probing vote on President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure spending plan was a bust. The $1.2 trillion bill had a test vote that was blocked by the GOP on July 21, with a vote of 49-51; Democrats required 60 votes to move forward.
Initially voting in favor of advancing the bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who spearheaded the early tally, changed his ballot as the measure failed so that he could quickly bring it back for a second vote. But this is not the only infrastructure proposal moving through Congress; Democrats are now urging a delay on voting for the party’s $3.5 trillion budget resolution until after this first matter is passed.
What is being billed as bipartisan legislation for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plans is facing more hurdles than expected. Neither the $1.2 trillion bipartisan effort nor the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion package have been formally drafted, and much of the contents remain unsettled. It’s not that the entire Republican Party is against the proposal, however, there are still areas that need to be hammered out before going forward. “This vote is not a deadline to have every final detail worked out,” Schumer argued prior to the vote, “It is not an attempt to jam anyone.” But then, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “Around here, we typically write the bills before we vote on them.”
A group of 22 senators who make up the bipartisan faction that has been negotiating and working on the bill, said in a statement: “We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement,” but 11 of those members sent Schumer a letter urging him to hold off on the test vote at least until next week.
Before the test tally, McConnell said:
“These discussions have yet to conclude. There’s no outcome yet … So, obviously, if the Democratic leader tries to force a cloture vote on a bill that does not exist, it will fail.”
And fail it did. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), a member of the negotiating group, told CNBC’s Squawk Box, “Today we’re not going to be able to support moving forward; we will be able to on Monday.” And Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), also on the team working to draft the bill, confirmed this proposed schedule, saying, “Almost everything is resolved … We will have another vote, I hope next week, and we’ll be able to proceed to the bill. We have enough Republicans, ten or 12 or more Republicans, that are supportive of going on the bill.”
The bipartisan package, when returned to the Senate floor, will require 60 votes to pass, while the larger, $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill will only need a majority of 51, which would likely include Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. The latter is predicted to cover much larger items such as paid family leave, Medicare benefits, policies to take on climate change, universal pre-kindergarten, and an extension of the child tax credit.
While the larger bill is expected to pass via the reconciliation process, there is still concern among President Biden’s supporters that it might fall at the final hurdle along with the smaller bipartisan proposal, which would leave the president with only the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan monies to show for his first half-year sitting in the Oval Office.