Bipartisan infrastructure deal could advance within hours, Schumer says

By | July 28, 2021

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that the chamber could vote within hours on moving forward with a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

The New York Democrat’s announcement signals that the bipartisan group of negotiators who have spent weeks hammering out an agreement are nearing their last stages of talks. Schumer held a vote last week to begin the process of passing a cross-aisle infrastructure plan but Senate Republicans blocked it, asking for more time to finalize a deal.

“Senators continue to make good progress on both tracks of legislation,” Schumer said Wednesday morning.

The bipartisan group has yet to announce a final deal, but negotiators say they’re getting close. And GOP negotiators huddled with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday morning.

Senate Democrats will also meet for a special caucus meeting at 1 p.m., according to a Democratic aide.

The group, led by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), announced a framework with President Joe Biden last month that would include nearly $600 billion in new spending on roads, bridges and broadband. But translating that framework into legislative text has proven challenging.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a member of the group, said Wednesday that she planned to vote to move forward on the bipartisan bill. “There is a strong, solid number of folks on both sides of the aisle that want to get on an infrastructure package,” Murkowski told reporters. “In fairness there’s a lot that many of our colleagues have not been read into.”

Some Republicans, however, expressed skepticism that the vote would be successful.

“This idea of getting on a bill that’s still being written is still a bad idea,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a close McConnell adviser. “We’re going to insist upon amendments because this bill’s been negotiated by 20 people but there are 80 other senators.”

Committee chairs have expressed frustration with the process and many Senate Republicans want to see legislative text and a score from Congress’ nonpartisan budget scorekeeper before voting to move forward.

Schumer has long insisted that the Senate will pass the bipartisan infrastructure package and the budget blueprint for the $3.5 trillion social spending before leaving for the August recess. Earlier this week, he suggested the Senate could stay in through the weekend to finish up the bipartisan deal.