Biparty deal on life-sustaining infrastructure as key Senate test vote looms

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After months of liquidation, training drills and tight votes, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is on the cusp of his most serious act to date. The New York Democrat returns to Washington on Monday with two goals this week: to achieve consensus among his ranks on a $ 3.5 trillion budget and to see once and for all whether the bipartisan group’s efforts to strike an infrastructure deal are successful. real or not.

It should be noted that most members and the public still have not seen formal language either in the bipartisan bill or in the budget. The Democratic base must decide in a few days on two proposals of which it does not yet have the details. So far we only know what members of the House have said about the budget. For the bipartisan bill, the public only saw a two-page framework that came out last month and has already changed.

This timeline which puts pressure on negotiators to finalize a deal they haven’t yet and has angered Republicans who argue that Schumer is trying to undermine their progress. Schumer is also calling for Senate Democrats to be unified by Wednesday in their support for a budget resolution that would set the stage for the later passage of the Democrats’ larger infrastructure package – and not all Democrats have signed on.

Democrats face a very difficult calculation as they try to keep both efforts on track.

The bipartisan group is also expected to hold another meeting on Monday evening.

Biparty deal cancels IRS app this weekend

Over the weekend, the bipartisan group attempted to tie their negotiations.

Sources told CNN the group had been meeting for hours, trying to break this proposal down into smaller chunks to wrap it up. Ultimately though, there is still no resolution. The sticking point is what it has been for months. How do you fund $ 579 billion in new spending over the next five years or over $ 900 billion over the next eight? This issue became even more serious after the bipartisan group agreed to cut one of its major payments, which would have given the IRS billions to recover unpaid taxes. This financing option could have raised between 60 and 100 billion dollars depending on how it was structured.

Senator Rob Portman explained the problem with the IRS’s enforcement to CNN on Sunday.

“Well, one of the reasons that’s not part of the proposal is that we’ve had a step back,” Portman told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union”.

“Another reason is that we found out that the Democrats were going to put a proposal in the reconciliation package, which was not only similar to the one we had, but with a lot more enforcement from the IRS,” said the Republican of Ohio.

“This has created quite a problem because the general agreement is that this is the infrastructure package negotiated by the two parties and that we will stick to it,” added Portman, a chief Republican negotiator of the group that said they worked with White House legislation.

Republicans are also pushing back the impending deadline with a warning that it could turn GOP senators against the proposal.

“This immediately sends the signal that this is a Schumer bill and that they are trying to push through something that no one has read and has not been evaluated,” Senator James Lankford said , a Republican from Oklahoma. “Even the people who wrote it, can’t even read it.”

GOP Senator Bill Cassidy, who participated in bipartisan negotiations to create the framework for the bill, also criticized the procedural vote scheduled for Wednesday, telling “Fox News Sunday” that he would not support it without a full version of the bill. law Project.

“How do I vote for closure when the bill is not drafted? Unless you want planned failure, unless Senator Schumer wants it to happen, you need a little more time to get it right, ”said the Louisiana Republican. mentionned.

Test vote puts bipartite agreement in the spotlight

The bipartisan group of senators that struck an infrastructure framework deal with the White House last month worked over the weekend to translate it into legislation, but sticking points remain.

As a result, some Republicans argue it’s too early to set a deadline now, given it’s unclear whether legislation will even be ready this week.

When asked if he would vote yes in a procedural vote if the text of the bill was not ready, Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah and member of the bipartisan talks, said that it would be a “dereliction of duty” to move a bill forward. that had not been written.

“We’re definitely not going to vote on a bill that hasn’t been drafted yet,” Romney said.

Republican Senate Whip John Thune warned that the Senate Democrats’ plan to have a test on a still-unfinished bipartisan infrastructure deal could be “counterproductive” and deter GOP senators who might otherwise support measurement.

“I see it as an artificial deadline. Our members probably won’t vote to move on to something they haven’t seen,” South Dakota said. “I understand that he wants to move the process forward, but it could be counterproductive on his side if he really wants a result.”

Portman also echoed the post on Sunday, telling CNN “we don’t have a product yet.”

“And we won’t have a product until we finish the negotiations properly,” he said. “Again, this is a complex bill – it involves several committees, it involves, you know, a lot of very difficult issues because we have to resolve them among ourselves first, so again we let’s get together today.… We’re moving as fast as we can. “

The other hurdle is that the entity that decides how much legislation will affect the country’s financial performance has still not weighed in. The Congressional Budget Office score is seen as a critical factor for Republican members who have yet to weigh in. Without a favorable score or one that is expected to dramatically increase the country’s debt, Republicans argue they might not be able to support the bipartisan deal.

Thune said GOP thinking could change if a deal is quickly reached and the Congressional Budget Office rating becomes available ahead of Wednesday’s vote, but until then there will be “real concern about trying to move on to a draft. law that no one has seen “.

Schumer dismissed concerns and projected confidence on Thursday, saying: “I have spoken to some of our Democratic members of the bipartisan group, they are making very good progress, there is no reason we cannot start to vote next Wednesday, and that’s what we’re going to do. ”

Reconciliation campaign will test democratic unity

At the same time, to advance other important elements of Biden’s infrastructure agenda, Senate Democrats must unite behind a budget deal to push forward a Democrats-only bill that includes priorities excluded from the bipartite agreement. The bill they are considering would include everything from immigration to health care expansion to tax increases for Americans earning more than $ 400,000 a year.

Democrats on the Budget Committee announced on Tuesday evening that they had reached agreement on a $ 3.5 trillion budget resolution that would be a first step towards their ability to pass their own infrastructure bill later this year .

There have already been promising signs that lawmakers at different ends of the ideological spectrum will support the plan.

Budget committee chairman Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats and who initially pushed for a much larger package with a goal of spending up to $ 6 trillion, endorsed the shot Tuesday night, calling it a “big deal”.

Moderate Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia who played a key role in budget negotiations, joined Sanders in endorsing the plan.

“I’ve been doing this job for about 12 years. I can’t think of a more meaningful effort we’re taking, than what we’re doing right now,” Warner said.

However, it is not yet clear whether the Senate’s 50 Democrats will ultimately support the package.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, from coal-producing West Virginia, has previously expressed concern about the climate change-related provisions that progressives have advocated.

“I know they have the climate part here, and that worries me,” Manchin said moments after Biden met with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana and a deciding vote, said of the $ 3.5 trillion prize: “That’s a big amount.” He made it clear, however, that he’s open to it depending on what’s in it and how it’s paid. When asked if he was ruling it out, he told CNN: “Absolutely not.”

“It’s a big sum,” Tester said. “Yeah, I think we just have to figure out how it’s spent and how it’s applied, figure out how it’s going to be paid for, and then do the valuation.”

This story and the title were updated with additional developments on Monday.

CNN’s Manu Raju, Ali Zaslav, Ted Barrett and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.


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