- Senate vote scheduled Wednesday on infrastructure legislation.
- Republicans urge a delay until Monday, so legislative language can be drafted and the cost totaled.
- Democratic Sen. Jon Tester says ‘it will be done.’
WASHINGTON – Bipartisan negotiations stretched deep into the evening Tuesday as senators scrambled to find agreement on a massive bipartisan infrastructure bill, a core part of President Joe Biden’s economic plan that faces a vote Wednesday to formally debate the measure.
But Republicans have warned the vote could fail if rushed, as senators haggle over details on transit and how to pay for the entire package. Several Republican negotiators have said they’ll vote against beginning the debate Wednesday, potentially postponing Democratic hopes to move the bill closer to passage.
“This stunt is set to fail,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, hours before the vote.
Republican negotiators have urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to wait until Monday to begin debating the bill so they have legislative language and a score of how much it will cost.
But after talks ran to 11 p.m. Tuesday, the latest in a series of late-night talks, Democrats were optimistic a deal could be reached Wednesday morning before the vote and legislative language drafted afterward.
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“I really believe, tomorrow it will be done,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said late Tuesday. “We are so close.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a key swing vote, said negotiators would issue a statement after the vote.
“They’re all working very, very hard,” Manchin said. “I think there’s going to be a statement later today and I think it’s going to be very promising.”
“Everything looks like it’s going to get worked out,” Manchin added.
The vote is scheduled about 3 p.m.
But Republicans led by McConnell have insisted until now on having legislative text for a vote. McConnell said even if the vote fails Wednesday, no time will be lost if Schumer calls for another vote Monday.
Schumer opened the Senate session saying he was just trying to begin debate on the legislation after four weeks of negotiations.
“This vote is not a deadline to have every final detail worked out,” Schumer said. “It is not an attempt to jam anyone.”
The vote on whether to begin debating the package requires 60 out of 100 senators to overcome a potential filibuster from opponents. Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to join them to succeed.
Republican negotiators characterized the talks late Tuesday as resolving disputes rather than completing legislative language.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Wednesday he anticipated finishing the legislation this weekend.
“A couple of areas 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,” Romney said. “We’ll be able to proceed to the bill. We have enough Republicans – that’s 10 or 12 or more Republicans – are supportive of going on the bill.”
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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said late Tuesday “it’s going to take time to get the legislative language drafted and the provisions scored.”
“We’re working on it as soon as possible,” she said. “We’re doing very well.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she remains optimistic.
“We are working on all of our outstanding issues and we’re really optimistic,” she said.
The legislation aims to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to build roads, bridges, railways and broadband, part of Biden’s broader economic priorities.
While this measure generally enjoys bipartisan support, Republicans are wary of Democratic plans to push more spending legislation totaling $3.5 trillion for provisions such as expanding Medicare and subsidizing two years of community college.
Schumer repeated Wednesday that his plan is to vote on both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion package before leaving for the August recess.
“That’s the schedule I intend to stick with,” he said.
Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said all 50 senators would vote to begin debate on the $3.5 trillion package.
“At the end of the day, we will have all 50 on board for the most consequential piece of legislation for families in the modern history,” Sanders said.
But McConnell called the combination of bills a “reckless taxing and spending spree” and saidthe legislation “would crush our country with a historic set of sweeping tax hikes.”
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Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told reporters late Tuesday the time will be worth it if the bill succeeds, after “the twists and turns and how many times we got close to death.”
“I would not be messing up your nights that many times in a row if I didn’t think this is going to get done,” Warner said.