Senate Republicans in bipartisan talks on a $579 billion infrastructure deal are warning Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that if he goes through with a Wednesday vote to start debate on the plan he won’t have their support and his attempt to enforce a deadline will fail.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins said there is “no way” the group of 22 Republicans and Democrats can finish pulling together a bill by Wednesday with many issues still outstanding, including how to pay for it.
Without legislation in hand, Republicans say they will deny Schumer the votes he would need to move ahead.
“We need to see the bill before voting to go to it,” Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said. “I think that’s pretty easily understood “
Schumer has announced plans to set up the vote in a drive to nudge negotiators along, saying the Senate could move ahead with what would be a shell for the eventual legislation while negotiators have a few more days to finish.But moving ahead requires 60 votes and Schumer would need at least 10 Republicans to agree. Those would likely come from among the 11 Republicans involved in the negotiations and several of them are indicating they won’t vote to proceed until the legislation is ready.
Losing the vote on Wednesday would be a significant setback for Schumer, although under Senate procedures he could attempt it again at a later date. It could short-circuit Schumer’s timeline for action on infrastructure this month and hamper the effort to keep Republicans on board.
Collins and GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio are among Republicans urging Schumer to delay the procedural vote on a measure championed by President Joe Biden.
“There’s no point in having it,” she said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said a deal could be reached by Wednesday. “Two days is a lifetime in Washington,” she told reporters.
The bipartisan group of 22 senators negotiating the infrastructure package has struggled for weeks to hammer out details that can be turned into legislative text, but still hasn’t settled on how to pay for their plan as negotiations with the White House continued through the weekend.
A GOP aide said the group continues to make some progress and has cut the number of outstanding issues but there are still numerous issues to resolve, both on how to pay for it and on infrastructure policy.
Portman, one of the Republicans leading the effort, on Sunday said the group dropped plans to use stricter tax code enforcement as a way to offset $100 billion of the cost of the package, a move that complicates the delicate negotiations.
“It’s more important to get it right than to meet an arbitrary deadline,” Portman said Sunday on CNN. “We should bring the legislation forward when it’s ready.”
Senators in the group are considering reversing a Trump-era policy that sought to eliminate rebates drug companies give benefit managers in Medicare Part D. The Trump administration proposed the rule to lower out-of-pocket costs for patients but reversing it could save Medicare substantial money. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the rule would increase federal Medicare spending by about $177 billion from 2020 through 2029.
Schumer this week also has a second target -- agreement among Democrats on a budget framework for the biggest expansion of social spending in decades -- and it could prove just as challenging. Details of that package also haven’t been spelled out.
Two Democratic senators from Republican-dominated states, Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, want more details on the specifics of the $3.5 trillion plan, including how it would be paid for, before committing. Progressive Democrats in the House and Senate, meanwhile, are threatening to withhold support for an infrastructure package until it’s clear that action is being taken on the budget framework.
It remains unclear if the bipartisan group includes drug price issues in the infrastructure framework whether that means drug prices would have to be excluded in the budget package. Biden has committed that anything in the bipartisan deal would not be revisited in the Democrat’s subsequent budget bill.
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