Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Sunday a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure package was being hammered out over the weekend, and pushed back at a Wednesday deadline from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., for a vote to begin debate on a bill.
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Portman said a premature vote would be meaningless.
“We're still working on it. It's more important to get it right. We are still negotiating,” he said of efforts by a bipartisan group in which he’s involved.
“Last night I was negotiating some of the final details with the White House and later [Sunday] we'll be having additional negotiations with the Republicans and Democrats who come together to put this bill into a track that's very unusual for Washington.”
“People are used to legislation being on the Republican side or Democrat side,” he continued. “This is a little confusing for people because it's actually 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats putting this together. Chuck Schumer, with all due respect, is not writing bill. Nor is [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.], by the way. So that's why we shouldn't have an arbitrary deadline of Wednesday. We should bring the legislation forward when it's ready.”
Schumer’s aim for Wednesday to start a debate on an infrastructure package is a waste of time.
“Start debate on what? We don't have a product yet,” he said, adding: “This is a complex bill that involves several committees, lot of very tough issues because we've got to resolve them between us first… We're moving as fast as we can.”
But Portman was dismissive of a second Democrat-led $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, calling it a “strictly… partisan exercise more typical of Washington” — and asserted it’s not linked to the bipartisan $1.2 T infrastructure package.
“Ours is unusual, and that's one reason you see this difference between what Sen. Schumer wants to do,” he said.
“This is spending that will be spent not next year. It won't be spent for the most part until the next five to ten years or more, and it goes into long-term assets which may last 50, 70 years,” he pointed out.
More importantly, he said, the packages “are not linked and cannot be linked.”
“To President [Joe] Biden's credit, he has said they are not linked. They're totally separate,” he added. “Ours is a bipartisan process. Again it's about infrastructure only, which is a different kind of spending than what the Democrats are talking about. … Theirs is spending on new social programs and huge tax increases. No, I'm not for that. I think it's a terrible day for our economy coming out of the pandemic. I hope that they're not successful.”
“Ours is on an entirely different track and everyone acknowledges that,” he declared.
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