WASHINGTON - Republicans preventedThe Senate on Wednesday to adopt an emerging bipartisan infrastructure plan, raising doubts over the fate of a major item on President Biden's agenda even as negotiators continued to seek compromise.
The failure of the vote underscored intense mistrust between the two parties, which complicated efforts to reach a deal. Republicans and Democrats in the deal-seeking group say they are still making progress on a deal on a nearly $ 600 billion package of new funds for roads, bridges, railroads, railroads, transit and other infrastructure, which could be the first major injection of federal public funds. work since the 2009 stimulus bill.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader, forced the vote in an effort to '' intensify the pressure for a resolutionof the talks, acting on pleas from centrist Republicans who said they needed more time to solidify their deal with the Democrats. While many Democrats fear the Republicans will drag out the process just to deny support for a final bill, he argued there was still time to work out the final details.
"This vote is not a deadline to sort out all the final details - it is not an attempt to scramble anyone " said Mr Schumer ahead of the vote, adding that negotiators would have "plenty of opportunities " to add their plan to the bill "even if they still need a few days to finalize the language.
But Republicans said they were not ready to commit to considering an infrastructure measure, and warned that submitting the question tovote risked a potential bipartisan breakthrough. As they shuttled back and forth between meetings and votes on Wednesday, Republican negotiators said a final deal could emerge in the next few days, about a month after triumphantly announcing a deal on a framework.
"We are optimistic that once we pass this vote today we will continue our work and be ready in the next few days "said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and a key negotiator. She said members of the group "think we will be largely ready on Monday.
With the 50 Senate Republicans opposed, the Democrats do not have not reached the 60 votes that would have been needed to move a debate on infrastructure forward. The 50-member Democratic caucus initially voted to continue, but Mr Schumer changedrelied on his vote to allow him, under Senate rules, to again evoke the measure.
It was an unsuccessful start to what Democrats had hoped would be a time of heavy activity on Capitol Hill, with action on a two-party infrastructure measure and a much more ambitious $ 3.5 trillion partisan budget plan that would include money to tackle climate change, expand healthcare and education, and expanding child care and paid time off.
Instead, senators spent Wednesday expressing frustration over their inability to begin debating the infrastructure plan and to meet privately to discuss the details of the structure and financing of the package. In a joint statement after theIn the vote, 22 senators involved and briefed on bipartisan efforts said they were optimistic about the possibility of closing the deal and vowed to continue working over the next few days.
" We understand that this is a legislative process, and it is underway, "Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on board of Air Force One. The administration, she added, was "encouraged by the progress and grateful for the work of the Democrats and Republicans involved.
Republicans , including the five negotiators who were involved in talks about a compromise, argued Democrats threatened their progress by rushing a vote on the package before the deal was ready. Democrats wondered why Republicans, many of whom have said they want a bipartisan compromise on the iinfrastructure, would not be willing to simply allow a debate to move forward while negotiations continue.
Both sides had long been concerned political ramifications of an agreement underlying these accusations. Democrats, especially progressives, have long feared that Republicans will drag out negotiations to force concessions and ultimately deny their support.
Republicans fear s 'prematurely locking into a deal with Mr. Biden that members of their own party - anyone who deeply opposes expensive federal spending could reject it. Biden agenda›
However, even if they votedUnanimously against the maneuver, several Senate Republicans said they would support a postponed vote because as early as Monday if an agreement could be reached by then. At least 11 Republicans - enough to overcome an obstruction if all Democrats and Independents agreed - prepared a letter to Mr Schumer making the pledge, although it was not clear on Wednesday whether he would. 'had received.
For Republicans who negotiated the infrastructure deal with Democrats, voting no on Wednesday was a calculated bet they could quickly finish the text and that it could be brought up for another vote. If they strike the deal in the next few days, they would still have to convince enough of their colleagues to support the measure for it to eliminate the threshold of 60 systematic obstruction votes.
"This is not a breach of agreement " said senatorUtah Republican and other negotiator Mitt Romney. "It's just a matter of making sure we have an agreement in place, between all parties, before we actually vote to move on to the bill.
" We have to go as fast as possible, "he added. "I'm not criticizing the pressure to move - that's the nature of the job.
Since they announced their deal on a frame Initial, a bipartisan group of 10 senators and senior White House officials discussed the details of a comprehensive package that is expected to provide $ 1.2 trillion over eight years, with $ 579 billion in new funding for roads, bridges, broadband and highways in addition to the continuation of existing transportation programs, which committee heads have broadly accepted outside of the talks. Image " This vote is not a deadline to have all the final details w It is not 'this is not an attempt to confuse anyone,' Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer said before the vote. Credit ... Stefani Reynolds for Hfrance.fr
But the failure of the vote has always frustrated some Liberal Democrats, who have repeatedly warned of what they see as the mistakes of 2010, when they delayed the votes on the Affordable Care Act in the hope of Republican votes that never saw the light of day. They argued that Democrats can easily fit the new spending on roads, bridges, broadband and highways into the larger spending program thatshould take shape in the coming weeks.
"It has been too long - we have lost several months " said Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal on Tuesday. from Washington, Chair of the Progressive Caucus, before the vote. "The plan is always to delay, delay, delay and wait until you get to an August break.
Negotiations venues between the top 10 senators and senior White House officials stretched late into the evening most nights this week, and on Tuesday an in-person meeting with fajitas, tacos and wine ended when the last senators left just before 11 p.m.
They continued on Wednesday, as the group of senators met for lunch and briefed a group of allies and Senate representatives Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey, andBrian Fitzpatrick, Republican of Pennsylvania, leaders of the so-called House Problem Solver Caucus.
Lawmakers disagree on how to maintain levels funding for existing public transit programs. The group of key negotiators also need to finalize funding for the comprehensive measure, with Republicans in particular reluctant to support legislation that is not fully paid for.
During weekend talks, negotiators dropped a provision that would boost IRS law enforcement to collect unpaid taxes due to a conservative backlash. Instead, they are now debating the terms of rescinding a Trump-era rule that changes the way drug companies can offer discounts to optional Medicare patient health plans.
Democrats are also working to define the contours of the $ 3.5 trillion budget plan, which will unlock the fast-track reconciliation process and allow party leaders to push the rest of their economic priorities forward on a simple majority vote, bypassing the Republicans. This sketch is unlikely to emerge until the staff of the Budget Committee know whether to incorporate elements of the bipartisan framework. which would increase the cost of the whole.
"Our job right now is to move this thing forward as quickly as possible," said Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent in charge of the Budget Committee. "Hopefully by early August we have a budget proposal to vote on, and do what the American people want. wants. "
Nicholas Fandos,Jonathan Weisman and Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.