Republicans on Wednesday prevented the Senate from taking in an emerging bipartisan infrastructure plan, confirming Democrats’ fears that they would oppose an important part of President Biden’s agenda, even if negotiations continued to cement an elusive compromise.
The failed vote has underscored a strong mistrust between the two parties that has hampered efforts to reach an infrastructure deal, even though Republicans and Democrats have come enticingly close. It left the fate of a nearly $ 600 billion package to fund roads, bridges, rail, transit and other public works uncertain, which could mark the first major spike in federal construction spending since the 2009 Stimulus Bill.
In a test vote of 49-51, with all Republicans against, the Democrats missed the 60 votes that would have been required to fuel an infrastructure debate.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader, forced the vote to increase pressure for a swift resolution of the infrastructure talks.
“This vote is not a deadline to have every last detail worked out – it is not an attempt to block anyone,” said Schumer prior to the vote, adding that the negotiators would have “many options” to add to their bill ” even if they need a few more days to finish the language. “
However, Republicans said they were unwilling to commit to considering an infrastructure move, warning that a vote on the matter could risk a possible bipartisan breakthrough.
“There are a number of Republicans campaigning for an infrastructure bill who are waiting for this process to be completed in hopes that they can vote for it,” said No. 2 Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota. “Schumer makes a mistake to rush this.”
All 50 members of the Democratic caucus initially voted for a trial and all 50 Republicans were against, but Mr Schumer changed his vote to allow him to bring up the measure again in the future.
It was an awkward start to a season of intense activity on Capitol Hill that the Democrats had hoped for, with bipartisan infrastructural action and a far more ambitious $ 3.5 trillion budget plan that included substantial investments to combat the Climate change and health improvements would include care and education, as well as expanding childcare and paid leave.
Instead, the senators spent Wednesday swapping the blame for their failure to begin debating the infrastructure plan.
Republicans, including the five negotiators involved in the compromise discussions, argued that the Democrats had rushed to threaten their progress a vote on the package before the deal was done. Democrats asked why Republicans, many of whom have said they want a bipartisan compromise on infrastructure, would not be willing to simply push a debate forward during the negotiations.
The finger pointing was based on longstanding concerns of both parties about the political effects of a deal. Democrats, especially progressives, have long feared that Republicans would drag out negotiations to force concessions and ultimately withhold support.
For their part, Republicans are cautious about binding themselves to an agreement with Mr Biden that members of their own party – many of which are deeply opposed to costly federal spending packages – may oppose.
Although they voted unanimously against the maneuver, several Senate Republicans said they were ready to support a re-vote as early as Monday if an agreement could be reached by then. Eleven Republicans – enough to overcome a filibuster if all Democrats and Independents agree – prepared a letter to Mr Schumer making that pledge, though it was unclear on Wednesday whether he had received it.
“We are optimistic that once we have this vote behind us today, we will continue our work and be ready in the coming days,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and a key negotiator. She said members of the group “think we’ll be largely done by Monday”.
Mr Schumer could force another test vote on the bill, although it was unclear whether he would do so.
For the Republicans who negotiated the infrastructure deal with the Democrats, voting no on Wednesday was a calculated gamble in order to quickly finalize the text and vote it again. Should they close the deal in the coming days, they would still have to convince enough colleagues to support the measure in order to make the 60-vote filibuster threshold clear.
“Many of us plan to vote ‘yes’ to the last passage,” Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy told reporters as he walked out of the Capitol on Tuesday night. “I think we still have to move forward.”