Drama scrambles Schumer’s China bill

Eleventh-hour drama is scrambling the Senate’s vote on legislation aimed at combating China’s competitiveness, a top priority for Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

The Senate started an initial vote on the bill, restyled as the Innovation and Competition Act, at 11:03 a.m. on Thursday.

As of 1:40 p.m. they were still voting as Democrats sought sign off on a deal between Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Schumer on the former’s amendment to extend trade preferences and tariff relief.

That’s kept the bill in limbo, with 13 Republicans and Schumer holding out to see if a deal can come together before they cast their vote. If they are able to get an agreement, the GOP votes would be enough to let the bill move forward. 

A GOP senator said that Crapo and Schumer worked out an agreement and they are waiting to see if every other senator will sign off on it. Under the Senate’s rules any one member would be able to scuttle an agreement. 

“It’s a good agreement,” the senator told The  Hill. “It would get the Crapo package in the bill by way of an amendment.”

The senator added that if everyone signs off that would allow for a vote on Crapo’s amendment. Spokespeople for Schumer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said that they were trying to figure out if a senator is going to object.

“He was about to lose the cloture vote so Chuck had an epiphany and decided to take Crapo’s amendment,” Kennedy said.

If they can get sign off to get Crapo a vote, Kennedy said that Republicans would then provide the votes to let the bill to advance. 

“A lot of people are holding out. … You’ve got eight or 10 Republicans that haven’t voted yet,” Kennedy added. 

Earlier, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), when asked what the holdup was on the vote, added that they were “trying to get cloture.” 

“He said don’t leave early. … I was leaving at 3, I don’t think I’m going to be,” Shelby added, about the guidance Republicans have gotten from McConnell. 

Schumer needs at least 11 GOP votes because Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against ending debate. GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Todd Young (Ind.) have already voted to advance the bill. 

But most Republicans are holding out after Crapo, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, during a closed-door caucus lunch meeting on Wednesday railed about his inability to get a vote on his amendment to extend trade preferences and tariff relief.

Crapo said on Thursday while heading to the floor that talks were underway.

“The process is being worked out,” Crapo said. “We’re actively talking.”

Updated at 1:40 p.m.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bill Cassidy Bipartisanship China bill Chuck Schumer Cloture Innovation and Competition Act John Kennedy Lisa Murkowski Mike Crapo Mitt Romney Richard Shelby Todd Young

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