Top Senate Dem Sets Infrastructure Vote, Pressures Lawmakers
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is pressuring lawmakers to reach agreement by next week on a pair of massive domestic spending measures, signaling Democrats’ desire to push ahead aggressively on President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar agenda.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday he was scheduling a procedural vote for next Wednesday to begin debate on a still-evolving bipartisan infrastructure bill. Senators from both parties, bargaining for weeks, have struggled to reach final agreement on a $1 trillion package of highway, water systems and other public works projects.
Schumer said he also wanted Democratic senators to reach agreement among themselves by then on specific details of a separate 10-year budget blueprint that envisions $3.5 trillion in spending for climate change, education, an expansion of Medicare and more.
“The time has come to make progress. And we will. We must,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
The majority leader’s plans were an attempt to push lawmakers to work out differences so Democrats can advance their plans to fortify the economy for the long term and help lower-earning and middle-class families while imposing higher taxes on wealthy people and large corporations.
“There may be some last-minute discussion as to who, what mechanism is used to pay for each of these items,” Biden said of the two measures during a White House press conference Thursday. “But I believe we will get it done.”
Lawmakers working on the smaller infrastructure package met Thursday to discuss the details, but chafed at Schumer’s deadline. They indicated that substantial hurdles remain, including how to pay for the nearly $579 billion in new spending over five years that they agreed to with the White House. The rest of the money in the infrastructure proposal is a renewal of existing programs.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said senators differed over whether Schumer’s timeline was helping the bipartisan effort. Warner said the White House is trying to work with senators on ways to pay for the new spending without raising corporate taxes or fees such as the federal gas tax.
“We’re still short on pay-fors,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.
It will take 60 votes to start debating the infrastructure measure because Republicans are expected to use a filibuster — procedural delays — to try killing it.
That means the chamber’s 50 Democrats will need support from at least 10 Republicans. Democratic leaders hope a bipartisan deal on the widely popular projects on roads and other projects would attract enough Republicans to succeed. Yet bargainers have faced major hang-ups over which revenues they would raise to finance the infrastructure legislation.
One of the biggest revenue-raisers, bolstering IRS enforcement to bring in an estimated $100 billion over 10 years, has been a major discussion point in negotiations. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said the group was looking at alternative measures.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, predicted lawmakers will be able to craft a final bill, although he was unsure they will meet “anybody’s arbitrary deadline.”
“I appreciate the fact that the majority leader wants to have a vote as soon as possible. I don’t disagree with that, but soon as possible means when it’s ready,” Portman said.
Meanwhile, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., want Congress to approve a $3.5 trillion budget resolution before lawmakers begin a summer recess next month. Approval of that measure is crucial for Democrats because it would protect a subsequent bill actually providing that money for specific programs, probably this fall, from more GOP filibusters, meaning Democrats could pass it on their own.
The Democrats’ accord this week on their overall $3.5 trillion figure was a major step for a party whose rival moderate and progressive factions have competing visions of how costly and bold the final package should be.
But it’s merely an initial move that leaves the toughest decisions for later. They must translate their plan into legislation with specific spending and revenue figures, then line up the needed votes to enact it, a process likely to grind right through autumn.
Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.
In The News
ATCHAFALAYA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, La. (AP) — Stacks of valves, networks of pipes and hulking, two-story-tall tanks litter parts of... Read More
ATCHAFALAYA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, La. (AP) — Stacks of valves, networks of pipes and hulking, two-story-tall tanks litter parts of the swampy landscape of Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin, rusting relics of sites where oil wells were drilled in the 1970s, an unwanted legacy of the energy industry... Read More
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Railroads like the one involved in last month's fiery crash and toxic chemical release in Ohio would be... Read More
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Railroads like the one involved in last month's fiery crash and toxic chemical release in Ohio would be subject to a series of new federal safety regulations and financial consequences under legislation being introduced Wednesday by the state's two U.S. senators. An early copy... Read More
Dangerous winter weather ravaged the nation from California through the northern Plains on Thursday, trapping drivers on icy roads, knocking... Read More
Dangerous winter weather ravaged the nation from California through the northern Plains on Thursday, trapping drivers on icy roads, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands and grounding multiple flights. For the first time since 1989, the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning through Saturday... Read More
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wants the nation’s freight railroads to immediately act to improve safety while... Read More
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wants the nation’s freight railroads to immediately act to improve safety while regulators try to strengthen safety rules in the wake of a fiery derailment in Ohio that forced evacuations when toxic chemicals were released and burned. Buttigieg announced a package of... Read More
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The fiery derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals — sending a huge plume of smoke in the... Read More
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The fiery derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals — sending a huge plume of smoke in the air and forcing residents of a small Ohio town to evacuate — has highlighted the potentially disastrous consequences of train accidents and raised questions about railroad... Read More
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Friday afternoon to announce $500 million has been allocated to... Read More
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Friday afternoon to announce $500 million has been allocated to the city's water upgrades and lead pipe removal. According to senior White House officials, about $160 million of that total will be allocated through the bipartisan... Read More