The chatter this morning had a bipartisan deal on infrastructure within reach sometime today. This time the rumor mill had it right — so far, anyway:
GOP members of the bipartisan group negotiating an infrastructure deal emerged from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office announcing they have an agreement on the major issues and hope to move forward this evening, per @alizaslav @jessicadean
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 28, 2021
A couple of hours ago, Chuck Schumer went on the Senate floor to prepare the chamber for a major move. He suggested that the package could be ready for a procedural vote tonight:
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he could call a procedural vote on advancing a bipartisan infrastructure package as early as Wednesday evening, as negotiators rush to finalize details of the bill that includes some of President Biden’s key domestic priorities.
“With respect to infrastructure, senators continue to make good progress on both tracks of legislation,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning. “Members should be prepared to vote again on cloture on the motion to proceed to the bipartisan infrastructure bill as early as tonight.”
“Both tracks” refers to the bipartisan bill and the massive reconciliation package Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have demanded. That alone will likely prove problematic in advancing the former to opening debate. Politico wonders whether Schumer will have enough Republicans even with the bipartisan agreement to pass a procedural vote, and John Cornyn is already signaling that he’s not going to sit quietly for it:
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.
Just how much is covered by the term “major issues,” for that matter? It doesn’t sound like all of the details have been worked out yet, which makes it even more important to see the legislative text. Otherwise, Senate Republicans are being asked to buy a pig in a poke and set Democrats up to ram through the rest of their agenda in a separate reconciliation package. Small wonder that Cornyn wants lots of amendment opportunities on hand.
This might be a good time to reflect on Admiral Akbar’s greatest contribution to politics …
Update: Politico reports that Donald Trump is actively pushing to torpedo the bill:
Donald Trump tried and failed to pass an infrastructure bill so many times over the course of his presidency that his attempts were reduced to a punchline. Now out of office, Trump is trying to ensure that his successor, Joe Biden, suffers the indignity of the “infrastructure week” jokes as well.
The former president has sounded off repeatedly in the past week about the negotiations taking place between Senate Republicans and Democrats on the Hill and in the White House. He’s encouraged GOP lawmakers to abandon the talks and criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for even entertaining them. Senate Republicans have said, in interviews, that they have directly asked the former president not just to tone down his criticism but to actually support the infrastructure deal. …
Trump’s opposition, aides insist, is based on the merits. At a time of fear around inflation, he opposes additional spending and believes the framework of the potential compromise is far too tilted towards environmentally-conscious projects and not hard infrastructure. But much of what has driven Trump’s approach to legislation in the past has been self-interest and personal grievance. And in discussing current infrastructure talks, Trump aides concede that they remain upset that a big bill wasn’t passed while he was in the Oval.
“They had four years to do an infrastructure deal with someone who knows infrastructure and actually builds buildings,” one Trump aide said. “I’m just speaking for myself, he hasn’t said, ‘Oh they should have done it with me,’ but if they actually wanted infrastructure they would have done it when President Trump was in there.”
There are good reasons to oppose more unbudgeted spending on anything at the moment. It doesn’t necessarily come down to sour grapes alone, even if the sour grapes are an undeniable reality. If the GOP pushes forward anyway, these efforts might have the effect of making Trump look weaker within the GOP, an issue that’s already in play after yesterday’s special election in Texas.