GOP negotiators say they’ll vote to start infrastructure debate next week

Republicans say they will have enough GOP support to start a debate on an infrastructure package next week as negotiators signal they are close to finalizing their deal.

“Today we’re not going to be able to support moving forward, we will be able to on Monday,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who has led the talks for Republicans, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), another member of the negotiating group, said that 10 to 12 Republicans would be ready to start debate by early next week.

“Almost everything is resolved. … We will have another vote I hope next week and we’ll be able to proceed to the bill. We have enough Republicans, 10 or 12 or more Republicans, that are supportive of going on the bill,” Romney said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), another member of the negotiating group, told reporters that 11 GOP senators will send a letter to Schumer on Wednesday saying that they will be ready to start debate next week if the group has its agreement finalized.

Portman indicated early Wednesday afternoon that they letter had been sent.

The negotiating group was expected to send the letter on Tuesday, but GOP senators leaving Capitol for the night said that it hadn’t been sent.

The GOP’s pledge to put up at least the 10 votes Democrats will need to break a filibuster is contingent on the group of roughly two dozen senators finalizing their deal, though they warn legislative text will take substantially longer.

The core group of negotiators met late Tuesday night and are scheduled to meet again on Wednesday. Though they are unlikely to resolve their remaining issues and finalize their deal by the end of Wednesday, several members of the group said a deal is just days away.

“I would think that hopefully this weekend we’ll be wrapping it up,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), another member of the group, added that’s what left to work out “is very small.”

The Senate will vote on Wednesday to try to start debate on essentially a shell bill that the bipartisan text would be swapped into.

But because the bipartisan group is still working to reach its deal, that vote is going to fall short of the 60 votes needed to advance.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) can switch his vote — a procedural option that allows him to easily bring the bill back up.

But Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) cautioned that Republicans, even within the group of 22, could be wary of voting to open debate if the group’s work drags into early next week.

“I don’t think there will be a lot of support beyond the group and perhaps even with it for proceeding to something that isn’t yet ready,” Thune told reporters.

Updated 1:15 p.m.

Tags bipartisan infrastructure deal Chuck Schumer Infrastructure Joe Manchin John Thune Jon Tester Mitt Romney Rob Portman Susan Collins

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