GOP backing down from threat to block Schumer’s China bill

Senate Republicans appear to be backing down from a threat to block legislation aimed at combating China’s competitiveness.

The bill, a top priority of Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), was garnering threats from top Republicans that they would block the bill from getting the 60 votes needed to advance and ultimately pass amid frustration about the slow pace of amendment votes. 

But a handful of amendments happening Tuesday night, and more expected on Wednesday and Thursday, appears to be alleviating some of the pressure and helping clear a path for the bill.

“I think if we get another half a dozen amendments today at some point our folks will have sufficiently scratched the itch when it comes to getting amendment votes,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Thune’s remarks are a shift from Tuesday, when he was predicting that the bill was poised to be filibustered as things currently stood. 

A second senior GOP senator said they expect the additional amendment votes will allow the bill to pass, likely on Thursday. 

The vote would get rid of a major headache for Schumer, who is also facing pushback from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) over the bill. Schumer acknowledged when he started to wind down the bill on Tuesday night that he wasn’t sure Republicans would go along. 

“We will look for a signal from our Republican friends that, when we cooperate, we will move forward and not move to block or delay unnecessarily,” Schumer said. 

Democrats have set up three amendment votes for Wednesday, with Schumer vowing that with cooperation they’ll be able to hold additional votes on Wednesday and Thursday. 

“Who would have ever thought that the Senate would adopt an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul by voice vote. We did it,” Schumer said on Wednesday morning, referring to the GOP senator from Kentucky. 

“So look, we are moving forward in a very bipartisan way. We’ll consider at least another three amendments to the bill today. And if both sides continue in good faith to schedule amendment votes and debate — and there are no eleventh-hour decisions to delay or obstruct — there is no reason we can’t finish the bill by the end of the week,” he added. 

Republicans haven’t explicitly said how many total amendment votes would satisfy their members to allow the bill to wrap up on Thursday, a schedule that would require the buy-in from every senator. 

Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.), the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, told reporters on Wednesday that he thought that they needed “more amendments.”

Republicans are expected to discuss the legislation during a lunch meeting on Wednesday. And Thune warned that Republicans letting the bill pass on Thursday “depends entirely on what the mood of the conference is,” but that there is a “scenario” where it passes quickly. 

If there’s a “reasonable opportunity and the people who really want amendments can get votes on them or get them into a managers package then I assume at some point everybody will be ready to close it at,” he said. 

The Senate is scheduled to take an initial procedural vote on the bill on Thursday, but even if it overcomes that hurdle it could still face up to an additional 30 hours of debate. The bill would also then need to overcome a second procedural hurdle, where Republicans could also drag out an additional 30 hours of debate. 

Democrats say that they’ve been warned that the Senate could be in session past their typical Thursday afternoon exit as Schumer tries to wrap up work on the bill.

Thune added that a senator will also force an an initial procedural vote on a point of order on Thursday, which will be a key signal how the rest of the debate on the bill is likely to play out. 

“If that fails then it probably starts to clear the path for final passage,” he said. 

Tags Bernie Sanders Charles Schumer China China competitiveness John Thune Rand Paul Roger Wicker

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