McConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal

McConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal
© Greg Nash

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (Ky.) warned that he would try to marshal Republicans to block any attempt by Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) to start wrapping up debate on a bipartisan infrastructure deal on Tuesday.

"The best way to pass this infrastructure bill is not to file cloture today and speed the process. ... If the majority leader files cloture today I'll be encouraging my colleagues, including the negotiators, not to invoke cloture on Thursday," McConnell told reporters on Tuesday, referring to the move for winding down debate.

McConnell was one of 17 GOP senators who have helped advance the bipartisan deal and signaled that he was open to supporting it on final passage.

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"This is an extremely important bipartisan bill. There's an excellent chance that it will be a bipartisan success story for the country," McConnell said.

A Senate Democratic aide noted that Schumer never said he would try to end debate on Tuesday. Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinManchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema US gymnasts offer scathing assessment of FBI MORE (D-Ill.), asked if he had a reason to think Democrats were going to move to start winding down debate on Tuesday, said he hadn't heard that they would.

But McConnell's warning comes as several GOP senators have signaled that they are concerned Schumer could move to end debate on Tuesday, setting up a Thursday vote where he would need at least 10 GOP votes to move forward. That would give Republicans an opportunity to block him from ending debate.

Though Republicans view it as increasingly inevitable that the bipartisan bill passes, leaving only the question of when, they want the chance to get votes on several potential changes to the bipartisan legislation. As of Tuesday morning roughly 175 amendments had been filed.

"If he files tonight, there will be an effort to get 41 of us to deny cloture," said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats make case to Senate parliamentarian for 8 million green cards Democrats to make pitch Friday for pathway to citizenship in spending bill Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell. 

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In order to get a vote on an amendment, every senator has to agree to bring it up or Schumer has to be willing to eat up days of floor time.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneManchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Manchin-McConnell meet amid new voting rights push Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee MORE (R-S.D.), McConnell's No. 2, predicted that if Schumer tries to end debate on Tuesday the bill would fail when it comes up on Thursday. He floated that moving to end debate on Thursday, setting up a Saturday vote, would be a "more realistic timeline."

"Getting 60 votes to close off debate will be hard if you don't have an amendment process that allows people to get amendments voted on," Thune said.