Senate GOP blocks debate on $1.2T spending plan in blow to Schumer, Biden

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Republicans in the Senate on Wednesday defeated a procedural vote brought by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to begin debate on the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, dealing a crucial blow to President Biden’s agenda.

The vote failed 51 to 49. 

With the Senate evenly split at 50-50, Democrats needed 10 Republicans to vote with them to reach the 60-vote threshold to end cloture and begin debate.

Schumer said he ultimately voted against the motion — which he had been urged to delay — so that he could reintroduce it at another time.

Republican lawmakers, including those who negotiated the plan with Democrats and the White House, had asked Schumer to delay the vote so that talks could continue on how to pay for the package and work out the details of what’s in it. 

Democrats are hoping to pass the infrastructure bill with bipartisan support in the Senate and then follow up by moving a $3.5 trillion spending package that includes funds for education, climate change, Medicaid and other social programs through reconciliation, which allows them to bypass Republicans altogether.

The cloture vote came as Biden boarded Air Force One for Cincinnati, Ohio, where he planned to pitch the infrastructure deal as part of his “Build Back Better” campaign promise.

But even moderate Republicans urged Schumer to delay the vote and expressed reservations about the effect the massive spending bill would have on the economy, which is already showing strains of inflation, and how to pay for the initiatives.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has been involved in the negotiations, said he believed some of his Republican colleagues would climb on board if some of the outstanding issues are worked out.

“There’s a couple of areas that are going to be worked on today and tomorrow, but I presume it’ll all be done by early next week, and we will have another vote I hope next week, and we’ll be able to proceed to the bill. We have enough Republicans that, you know 10 or 12 or more Republicans, that are supportive of going on the bill,” Romney told reporters earlier Wednesday.

Another of the GOP negotiators, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said Republicans will vote no on the procedural vote.

“We’ve told him we’re not ready, so we’re gonna vote no, but we will be ready by the end of this week. And we’ve always thought that,” Portman said in an interview on CNBC. “We still have four or five issues we’re discussing with the White House and negotiating with our Democratic colleagues.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said members of his party will find it difficult to vote on the bill without knowing what’s in it.

“Around here, we typically write the bills before we vote on them,” he said.

But Schumer, in a damn-the-torpedoes stance, vowed that the vote proceed at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday despite deep reservations by Republicans.

“My colleagues are well aware that we often agree to move forward with debates on issues before we have the text in hand,” Schumer said. “We’ve done it twice this year already.”

Schumer plans to use a “shell bill” because negotiations are continuing and the text hasn’t been finished.

Once completed, the “shell bill” can be swapped out for the completed version.

A group of 22 bipartisan senators have been negotiating the intricacies of the infrastructure plan over the past couple of weeks, but have been largely stymied by disagreement over the pay-fors.

With Post wires

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