Liberal House Democrats urge Schumer to stick to infrastructure ultimatum

Liberal House Democrats urge Schumer to stick to infrastructure ultimatum
© Greg Nash

Progressive House Democrats, frustrated with the pace of the infrastructure negotiations in the upper chamber, are urging Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck Schumer'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium Overnight Health Care: Florida becomes epicenter of COVID-19 surge | NYC to require vaccination for indoor activities | Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates National Organization for Women calls for Cuomo resignation MORE (D-N.Y.) to stand by his deadline for reaching a deal.

As the bipartisan talks were crawling along last week, Schumer delivered an ultimatum by setting up an infrastructure vote for this Wednesday, deal or none. The timeline reflected growing Democratic concerns that Republicans are simply trying to block huge new investments in infrastructure — and deny President BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE a major victory — by delaying the process indefinitely.

As the deadline approaches, the liberals' patience is all but exhausted. And they're calling on Schumer to dismiss the temptation to extend the negotiations window and instead prepare to go it alone. 

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"They've been killing time for months," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Shontel Brown wins Ohio Democratic primary in show of establishment strength On The Money: Biden issues targeted eviction moratorium | GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal MORE (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday. "It's starting to get to a point where this bipartisan effort is seeming to serve less on investing in our infrastructure, and more the end of just delaying action on infrastructure. It has been enough."

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila Jayapal'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Angst grips America's most liberal city MORE (D-Wash.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is piling on.

"Hopefully this vote is going to be it," she said. "I hope Sen. Schumer sticks to that and says, 'This is the deadline; if we don't reach cloture, we're moving on.' Because it's been too long, and we've wasted several months."

The frustration arrives as Democrats are racing to adopt Biden's ambitious infrastructure agenda — a massive, legacy-defining wish-list of public works spending — before year's end. The proposal is currently split into two pieces: the first, being negotiated with moderate Republicans, features $1.2 trillion in funding for physical infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and water systems; the second, which is expected to win no GOP support, is an enormous $3.5 trillion package of social benefit programs, immigration reforms and environmental projects.

Biden had won the White House on promises to reach across the aisle, and he — along with moderate Democrats in both chambers — is fighting to secure a big bipartisan win with the first package. Yet the talks have dragged on without a breakthrough, as the sides have haggled over how to cover the substantial costs.

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On Tuesday, centrist Senate Republicans called on Schumer to delay Wednesday's vote to give the negotiators more time to iron out the remaining differences.

"We’re making significant progress,” said Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget MORE (R-Maine). Those pleas are falling on deaf ears among House liberals, however, who are suspicious of the protracted debate — and the Republicans' motivations in extending it.

Jayapal has warned for weeks that Democrats will never find 10 Senate Republicans to break ranks with GOP leaders and defeat an infrastructure filibuster. As Senate Democrats struggle to secure those 10 votes, she's approaching a "told-you-so" moment.

"They're losing credulity at this point. I mean, it's been months, and all of us have stood back waiting for them to deliver. But nothing's being delivered. ... I feel like we're still waiting for Godot," she said. "Anybody who believes that Republicans are going to come along, at this point — it's pretty hard to make that argument."

The progressives are emphasizing that the failure of the infrastructure bill in the Senate on Wednesday would not seal its fate. That's because Democrats could simply take their favored provisions from the $1.2 trillion bill and add them to the second package, which is expected to move by a budget process allowing Democrats to pass it with a simple majority. Indeed, that appears to be their plan.

"I think we have no choice but to do that," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the powerful Rules Committee.