Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerManchin on reported boos at Democratic luncheon: 'I heard a lot of nos' Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE (D-N.Y.) is nearing a decision point on how to move President BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE’s sweeping infrastructure package as he faces competing pressure points.

The inflection point comes as senators have been working behind the scenes for weeks to try to advance a two-track infrastructure strategy — a bipartisan bill and Democrats’ go-it-alone $3.5 trillion plan — before they leave for a lengthy summer break that’s scheduled to start in a matter of weeks. 

Schumer, aware of the looming calendar, has scheduled a vote for Wednesday to tee up debate on the bipartisan group’s $1.2 trillion plan and get the process moving. But with Republicans vowing to block the Senate from moving forward as negotiators still try to finalize their agreement, Schumer will need to make a decision about what to do after the failed vote.  

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“We have a lot we need to do this month, so we can’t continue to delay and delay. ... We’ve got to keep to a schedule. ... Sen. Schumer has to be able to control the schedule,” Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats ramp up pressure for infrastructure deal amid time crunch Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE (D-Conn.) told reporters after a closed-door caucus lunch. 

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Watchdog blasts government's handling of Afghanistan conflict | Biden asks Pentagon to look into mandatory vaccines | Congress passes new Capitol security bill GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships MORE (D-Va.) said Schumer was “analyzing” the next steps and “has his finger on that.”

“I don’t tell the House how to do their job because I’m not over there,” Kaine said. “I’m very comfortable with Schumer knowing what the right order is.” 

Democrats have been pursuing a two-track infrastructure strategy, trying to reach an agreement on a smaller bipartisan deal and Democratic unity on a second, larger bill that will include a host of other priorities for the party and Biden.

The balancing act is made more complex because support for the bipartisan bill is tied up with Democrats’ plans for the second $3.5 trillion plan, which is to be passed under budget reconciliation rules — the process to avoid a GOP filibuster.

Schumer is facing pressure from both sides. 

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Republicans are urging him to cancel Wednesday’s vote, something he’s suggested that he won’t do. 

“Why is he rushing through the final stage of what has been a productive, bipartisan process? The only logical conclusion I can come up with is he wants this bill and this bipartisan effort to fail,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE (R-Texas). 

Schumer has tried to tamp down Republican concerns, pledging that Wednesday's vote was not a cutoff for the bipartisan talks. If Republicans allowed the Senate to move forward with debate on Wednesday, he publicly pledged that they could still swap in the bipartisan group’s text early next week if they were able to get a deal by this weekend. 

“It’s not a cynical ploy. It is not a fish-or-cut-bait moment. It’s not an attempt to jam anyone. It’s only a signal that the Senate is ready to get the process started,” Schumer said.

Republicans involved in the bipartisan talks say they are close to finalizing their deal and are urging Schumer to delay the Wednesday vote until Monday. Republicans were circulating a letter to Schumer that they would send as soon as Tuesday formalizing their request. 

“Wednesday is premature, but I think Monday would be sufficient time for us to get all the remaining issues solved and socialize the legislation with our colleagues,” Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-Utah) told reporters.

Though most Senate Democrats are on board with Schumer’s strategy, Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Manchin on reported boos at Democratic luncheon: 'I heard a lot of nos' Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget MORE (D-W.Va.), during a closed-door caucus lunch, discussed the prospect of delaying the vote for a couple of days while the bipartisan bill was being finalized, a source confirmed to The Hill. Manchin, speaking with reporters, said Democrats discussed the “ramifications” of the strategy but stressed that “I’m with Schumer on this plan. ...We’re going to vote tomorrow.”

Manchin, according to remarks confirmed by his office, also signaled that he was sticking to the need to pass a bipartisan deal, telling reporters: “I’m not committed to anything right now except for a bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

Schumer, after the closed-door caucus lunch, indicated that he’ll move forward with Wednesday's vote. 

“There’s no reason that it should fail,” he said. “We hope that our Republican friends vote ‘yes’ tomorrow.” 

Schumer, short of canceling the vote, could give the bipartisan group more time to finalize an agreement and bring the bill back up again for a second vote within a matter of days.

Speaking to reporters, the Democratic leader declined to say if that was his plan, but Democrats predicted that a setback on Wednesday wouldn’t be the end of the bipartisan deal. 

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“I still think it probably makes sense to do the bipartisan resolution first,” Murphy said. “My understanding is we’ll do these sequentially, we’ll get the bipartisan bill done and then we’ll go to the budget resolution.” 

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE (D-Mont.) added that Schumer was committed to trying to pass the bipartisan deal. 

“We could have a vote on this,” he said about Wednesday, adding: “I don’t see the harm on that.”

Republicans also floated that Schumer could switch his vote during Wednesday’s standoff — a move that allows him to easily bring the bill back up.

“All that does is give him the opportunity to move to reconsider. And at what point the bipartisan deal comes together, we can reconsider the vote and then he'd have the option to lay that down as a substitute. In other words, no time is lost,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Manchin 'can't imagine' supporting change to filibuster for voting rights Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters. 

But Schumer is facing pressure from the House to ditch the bipartisan track after Wednesday’s vote, where progressives are ready to move to the budget resolution.

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“Hopefully this vote is going to be it,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Angst grips America's most liberal city Congress must lower the Medicare Age to save the lives of older Americans MORE (D-Wash.) told reporters. “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.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: 'More than enough' votes to prevent infrastructure from passing without reconciliation bill Manchin: 'I can't really guarantee anybody' reconciliation package will pass Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate MORE (D-N.Y.), frequently mentioned as a potential primary challenger to Schumer, added, “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.”  

Trying to move the budget resolution without passage of the bipartisan bill, however, would change the calculus in the Senate, where Schumer needs all 50 Democratic senators. 

Though top Democrats are feeling bullish about their ability to get 50 votes on the budget resolution, Manchin reiterated on Tuesday that it’s a “two-track system” and “I don’t think you’ll see everything in one track.” 

Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget Ocasio-Cortez: 'More than enough' votes to prevent infrastructure from passing without reconciliation bill MORE (D-Ariz.) is also keeping her powder dry on the budget resolution, and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has said he will vote to start debate but hasn’t said if he could support it on a final vote. 

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinCongress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (D-Ill.), asked about House progressives, said “it’s easy to be skeptical when you look at the record of the Senate” but that it was a “tricky decision” about whether to move directly to the budget after Wednesday's vote. 

“The fate of the budget resolution is tied to what happens to the bipartisan bill,” he added. 

Mike Lillis contributed