GOP centrists call on Schumer to delay infrastructure vote
Senate Republican centrists are calling on Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to postpone a key vote on a bipartisan infrastructure package until Monday to give negotiators more time to reach a deal.
Schumer has scheduled a procedural vote on a motion to begin debate on the infrastructure package for Wednesday, and Republicans say he will not have the 60 votes needed to proceed.
“My hope is that Sen. Schumer will agree to postpone the vote. We’re making significant progress,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
“We just had, a subgroup of us, had a meeting. We met very late last night with the group of 10 and I would hope that Sen. Schumer would recognize the good-faith effort that we’re making, that this is extraordinarily complex and that we’re working as hard as we can,” she added.
Collins declined to say whether she would vote “yes” or “no” on the motion to begin debate but reiterated “I want him to delay the vote” and said she would speak to Schumer personally.
Another key GOP centrist made the same request of Schumer, urging that the vote be postponed until Monday.
“I think it should be Monday, not Wednesday. Give us time to resolve the remaining issues,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said after walking out of a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing.
Romney said “of course” the talks should continue even if Republicans vote Wednesday against bringing the bipartisan bill to the floor.
The bipartisan group discussed sending a letter to Schumer Tuesday asking him to delay the vote.
Romney thought the letter would be sent before lunchtime Tuesday but other GOP offices didn’t confirm that the letter was ever finalized.
But changing the scheduled Wednesday vote won’t be easy, as Schumer filed his cloture motion on Wednesday evening. It would require unanimous consent from the entire Senate to withdraw it.
Schumer pleaded with Republican colleagues to agree to take up the bill on Wednesday. He promised there would be time later in the week to vote on any deal reached by the bipartisan group of negotiators, which he is pledging to offer as the first amendment to the shell bill.
“It is not a final deadline for legislative text. It is not a cynical ploy. It is not a fish-or-cut-bait moment. It is not an attempt to jam anyone,” he said on the floor Tuesday.
“It is only a signal that the Senate is ready to get the process started — something the Senate has routinely done on other bipartisan bills this year,” he added.
Most members of the Senate Republican caucus, however, say they won’t vote to proceed to the bill until the bipartisan group of 10 senators and White House officials have finalized the agreement and released legislative text.
“We need to see the bill before voting to go to it. I think that’s pretty easily understood,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Monday.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a member of the bipartisan group, said a key sticking point is figuring out how to pay for the bill. He said the group is waiting on the Congressional Budget Office to score several of the proposals to offset the cost of new infrastructure spending.
“We still don’t have the pay-fors entirely nailed down. Part of that is getting scores back from CBO, what works and what doesn’t,” he said.
Cassidy said he’s undecided on how to vote Wednesday on the motion to begin the infrastructure debate. He said he wanted to review Schumer’s comments on the floor.
“Let me talk to my colleagues about that,” he said.
Democrats in the bipartisan group aren’t objecting to Wednesday’s vote on beginning the infrastructure debate and see the procedural exercise as something that might speed up the timeline for getting a bill done.
“Keep pressure on,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a member of the group.
Tester said “the pay-fors are done.”
“I think there’s a maybe a little negotiation on some recission funds on CARES Act funding but I think we’re in a position to get this thing done,” he said. “I think everybody is on the same page.”