Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is flanked by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) as he speaks to reporters, follow the weekly Senate Democrats’ luncheon at the US Capitol in Washington, USA, July 13, 2021.
Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., plans to proceed with the Senate passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill worth $ 1.2 trillion this week, despite the lack of consensus among the Senators negotiating the legislation about what will be in there.
Again this week, Schumer wants the Senate Democrats to agree to a $ 3.5 trillion budget dissolution, which they want to pass without a Republican vote.
Schumer is under heavy pressure to advance both of President Joe Biden’s domestic spending packages before Senators leave Washington early next month for a scheduled August break.
But several Republicans, whose votes Schumer must pass the 60-vote threshold to move the infrastructure bill forward, have sounded the alarm about the hasty schedule and threatened to vote against efforts to postpone the bill before negotiators finish it.
“We shouldn’t have an arbitrary Wednesday deadline,” said Ohio Senator Rob Portman, the leading Republican negotiating the deal, on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “We should come up with the legislation when it’s ready.”
However, Schumer sees the deadline as a crucial lever to force the bipartisan group of 22 senators to come to an agreement on difficult issues.
None are harder than paying for the $ 579 billion in new infrastructure they were planning to spend earlier this year.
Portman said he spent the past weekend working on the deal with members of the Senate group and the White House.
But rather than adding to the list of potential sources of funding for the bill, Portman said Republicans had recently removed a provision that would fund part of the infrastructure upgrade by collecting unpaid taxes.
“Everyone had productive talks, and it is important to keep the two-pronged process going,” said Schumer in the Senate on Thursday.
“All parties involved in the bipartisan talks on the Infrastructure Act must now finalize their agreement so the Senate can begin examining this bill next week,” he said.
Schumer announced that he will file a motion on Monday to proceed with a Shell bill to be used as a “vehicle” for the infrastructure bill once it is drafted. The Shell Bill contains a permit to finance highways that has already been passed by the House of Representatives.
This would initiate a further process vote on Wednesday. If 60 senators vote in favor of the Cloture appeal, Schumer’s office says it triggers up to 30 hours of debate in the Senate, followed by a vote on the motion to continue the Shell legislation.
During the subsequent amendment process, Schumer would file an amendment that swapped the Shell Act for the actual text of the final bipartisan infrastructure bill.
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Aside from this week’s scheduled vote, the other major test that lies ahead of us for the infrastructure package is what is known as the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office’s bill, an estimate of how much the package would add to the federal deficit based on how much the proposed one Funding would actually pay.
Schumer has also set himself an ambitious deadline on Wednesday for his group to reach an internal agreement to move forward with their massive budget dissolution, including instructions on reconciliation.
If they could invoke this parliamentary maneuver, the Democrats could pass the $ 3.5 trillion budget with just a simple Senate majority – 50:50 50:50 with the Republicans – instead of the 60 votes that the GOP could require through the filibuster rules.
But the timeline is also squeezed there. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, who will lead the process of drafting the bill, only approved the top-line number last week.
The package will likely include money for a universal preschool, free community college, expanded health insurance, subsidized childcare, extended family and sick leave, new low-income housing, and nationwide green energy projects.
If passed the Democratic way, the bill would represent both the largest expansion of the social safety net in decades and one of Washington’s most comprehensive efforts to curb climate change and prepare the country for its effects.
Republicans, meanwhile, have resisted the prospect of pumping trillions of dollars more into the economy as inflation rises.
The Democratic budget decision was “totally inadequate for a country already suffering from dramatic inflation,” Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Said last week.
However, many of the provisions in Biden’s two expense accounts are popular with voters. The Democrats are relying on this public approval to get the bills through in the next few weeks and months.
The party’s election hopes in 2022 likely depend on whether Biden’s two-pronged agenda actually goes through and whether the president can maintain public support for it through November next year.
Biden will be promoting the two bills, dubbed the “Build Back Better” agenda by the White House, on Monday in remarks on the economic recovery from the Covid pandemic.
The president has publicly tried to assert himself above the battle during the infrastructure negotiations.
“There may be some minor adjustments to the payouts and that will depend on what Congress wants to do,” Biden told reporters Wednesday afternoon after meeting with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill. “I’m not sure what can happen, exactly how it’s paid for,” he added.
Biden pushed for his economic agenda to be passed on Monday, specifically citing fears that the expensive plans could lead to more inflation.
“These steps will increase our productivity and raise wages without raising prices,” the president said during the remarks on the economic situation. “It will not increase inflation. It will take the pressure off inflation, stimulate our workforce, which will result in lower prices in the years to come.”
In private, senators from both parties have been in almost constant contact with important envoys of the White House in recent days.
Portman said he spoke to White House negotiators about details of the infrastructure bill on Saturday night. On Thursday, a group of Senators met with the White House team on Capitol Hill.
As the House of Representatives returns to Capitol Hill this week, Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., And her aides are working behind the scenes to avert potential problems the moderate Democrats face with the $ 3.5 trillion budget plan, Punchbowl News reported Monday morning .
Pelosi has proposed that the Senate pass both the infrastructure deal and the draft budget before adopting them in the House of Representatives.
“There will be no infrastructure bill unless the Senate passes a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi said last month.
– Christina Wilkie reported from Washington and Kevin Breuninger from New York.