GOP senator vows to slow-walk $1T infrastructure bill, sparking standoff
A standoff over the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is poised to drag out the Senate’s debate for days, with GOP Sen. Bill Hagerty (Tenn.) vowing he will block attempts to speed up passage of the legislation.
The Senate voted earlier Saturday to get the bill over a key procedural hurdle. But senators are increasingly pessimistic about the chances of a quick agreement and wrapped up for the night without a breakthrough.
Without a deal, the next vote on the bill will be on Sunday evening and it would not pass the Senate until early Tuesday morning.
“I’m not inclined to expedite this process whatsoever,” Hagerty told reporters after he spoke on the Senate floor Saturday in opposition to the bill.
It isn’t the first time Hagerty has thrown a wrench into the Senate’s infrastructure debate.
Senators had hoped to wrap up the bill late Thursday night or early Friday morning, and senators were seen lobbying Hagerty on the Senate floor. But the chamber ultimately adjourned early Friday without passing the bill.
The standoff didn’t appear to have thawed by Saturday, when 18 GOP senators joined all Democrats to advance the legislation.
“I just don’t think there’s enough pressure yet. … It takes a little while for people to stare at each other and feel a little about the pressure to come to an agreement on amendments,” said GOP Sen. John Thune (S.D.).
Senators had hoped to vote this week on anywhere between 16 and 25 amendments making potential changes to the bill. Now, in order to get votes on those amendments, they’ll need to cut a deal that can win approval from every senator.
However, Thune said that in order for Democrats to allow votes on amendments, Republicans would have to agree to speed up the bill — something Hagerty is saying he won’t do.
“The currency we have is time, and it’s going to be up to our members, obviously, whether they’re willing to do that, and then there has to also be an agreement on the universe [of] amendments that could be voted on,” Thune said about the dynamics of the trade-off.
Hagerty bristled over the idea of agreeing to speed up the bill in order to get amendment votes, arguing that they weren’t linked.
“What they’re asking for is an expedited process that has nothing to do with the amendments. I’m not against any of the amendments, not opposed to any of them. I’m not the one holding any of the amendments up. They’re free to start under normal order,” Hagerty said.
Several of the amendments have sparked controversy, including a battle over cryptocurrency tax policy that has pitted Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) against the White House and a GOP push led by Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.) to add $50 billion for defense infrastructure into the bill.
A GOP aide also accused the White House of trying to work behind the scenes to kill an amendment from Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) that would let states use some of their COVID-19 relief funds on infrastructure projects.
“I thought we had an agreement unless they’re playing dirty pool,” Cornyn said. “I’ll assume good faith until it’s shown otherwise.”
And Thune noted that there are other GOP senators besides Hagerty with objections to speeding things up.
Senators are now warning that they expect to be in for a days-long process.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) told reporters that it’s going to “30 plus 30,” a reference to the 60 hours that opponents can force the Senate to burn through before a final vote.
“It’s going to be the regular order,” he said.
Cornyn said it “depends on how soon people sort of see the handwriting on the wall.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned earlier Saturday that they wanted to hold additional amendment votes but said he would keep moving the bipartisan deal toward final passage with or without a deal.
“We can get this done the easy way or the hard way. In either case, the Senate will stay in session until we finish our work. It’s up to my Republican colleagues how long it takes,” he said.
Conservatives have fumed over the $1 trillion bipartisan deal, arguing that it just makes it easier for Democrats to pass a budget resolution that will greenlight a separate $3.5 trillion spending package that they will craft later this year.
“Most of us in this body have not had the opportunity to be at the table, and amendments that we have worked on that we felt like would have improved this bill are not going to be hard. Not here, not in committee,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).
“I’m for infrastructure projects, yes, indeed. Am I for this piece of legislation? No, because it’s a document that has misplaced priorities,” Blackburn added.
The conservative pushback comes as former President Trump has slammed the bill while criticizing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has helped advance the bill so far.
“Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill is a disgrace. If Mitch McConnell was smart, which we’ve seen no evidence of, he would use the debt ceiling card to negotiate a good infrastructure package,” Trump said in a statement Saturday.
He added that the bill would be used against Republicans in 2022 and 2024 and said it would be “very hard” for him to back “anyone foolish enough to vote in favor of this deal.”
Updated: 8:30 p.m.