As a prelude to the new Democrat-led $3.5 trillion budget resolution, Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is preparing a cloture vote on the smaller bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. High-ranking Democrat lawmakers have said the smaller bill will only be accepted as part of a combined package with their own larger proposal. But with the text and details of the bills still unwritten, the passage faces stern Republican opposition.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) accused Schumer of “trying to blow this effort up” and said that “filing cloture on a bill that doesn’t exist is insane.” He implored President Joe Biden to get on the phone to the Senate leader and tell him to “stand down.” Speaking on The Ingraham Angle, Graham – presumably hoping that his message would be relayed to Biden – asked the president to “Tell [Schumer] that ‘You’re undercutting an effort to find common ground on infrastructure regarding roads, bridges, and ports’ … You can tell Schumer to stop. Whether he will or not, I don’t know, but you should at least try to stop them from blowing this up.”
No Blank Slate
The sticking point for Graham and GOP colleagues is that the hefty budget resolution is presently a blank slate. “We’re not going to proceed to a bill that’s not written because that makes no sense,” Graham said. He fears that Democrats will immediately put “amnesty” for illegal immigrants into the text, and with only a simple majority needed for the resolution to pass, there would be little his party could do to stop it. He said, “Imagine if you gave legal status to illegal immigrants without first securing the border. No proposal that’s ever been made in Washington gave legal status until the border was first secured … It will put jet fuel on a system that’s already broken. If you give one person legal status, there will be a run on our border like you’ve never seen before.”
“I’ll leave town to prevent this,” Graham threatened. “If we can shut the Senate down by leaving town, we should.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) may turn out to be an even larger stumbling block. Even if the initial $1.2 trillion bill were to pass in the Senate – unlikely as it requires support from at least ten Republicans – Pelosi has intimated that she would not bring the package to the House floor unless the $3.5 trillion spending extravaganza is forced through via reconciliation. Although the smaller package is touted as bipartisan, many leading Democrats appear to be feeling left out in the cold as Joe Biden has focused his attention more on gaining GOP support rather than bringing his own party into the fold. According to Politico, Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) says that he hopes the talks amount to nothing. The “whole thing falling apart is probably the best thing,” Politico reports him saying.
As the leader of the House Transportation Committee, DeFazio feels more of his own work and recommendations should be included. On Monday, he circulated a five-page memo taking aim at the content discussed so far, saying that “Republicans in the Senate are pushing to underfund transit” and that the Senate GOP position as it stands is a “nonstarter.”
No Easy Path
Without Republican votes and House Democrat support, President Biden’s grand plan has little chance of delivering what he hopes will be an enduring legacy of “human infrastructure.” Rather than go back to the table with concerned parties, the president has decided to take to the road and host town halls in order to sell his vision to the wider public; a perhaps baffling strategy when the dozen or so people he needs to convince are right on his doorstep in Washington, D.C.
As a seasoned lawmaker with decades of experience on Capitol Hill, Joe Biden’s current approach to drumming up bipartisan support has both politicians and the Fourth Estate somewhat nonplussed. And with Chuck Schumer going the Hail Mary route, the future of the package remains as speculative as the content of the bill itself.