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 ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell aims to sidestep GOP drama over Trump There is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections Juan Williams: It's Trump vs. McConnell for the GOP's future MORE (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 WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTop Biden official says information classification system undermines national security, public trust Senate Democrats urge Biden to get beefed-up child tax credit into spending deal Overnight Energy & Environment — High court will hear case on water rule MORE (D-Ore.) against the White House and a GOP push led by Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money — No SALT, and maybe no deal Fiscal spending deadline nears while lawmakers face pressure to strike deal These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE (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 CornynJohn CornynOvernight Defense & National Security — Pentagon tells Russia to stand down Ukraine sent letter to senators seeking specific Russia sanctions, military assistance Senate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker MORE (R-Texas) and Alex PadillaAlex PadillaDemocrats ask for information on specialized Border Patrol teams These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (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 SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzNew Mexico Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress MORE (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 SchumerChuck SchumerThe Hill's Morning Report - Democrats sense opportunity with SCOTUS vacancy Schumer finds unity moment in Supreme Court fight Breyer retirement throws curveball into midterms MORE (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 BlackburnMarsha BlackburnOn The Money — Fed's inflation tracker at fastest pace since '82 Hillicon Valley — Presented by Cisco — Apps urge senators to advance antitrust bill App company CEOs urge senators to back antitrust bill MORE (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 TrumpDonald TrumpFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon tells Russia to stand down Billionaire GOP donor maxed out to Manchin following his Build Back Better opposition MORE has slammed the bill while criticizing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Actor John Krasinski films outside White House Biden's Supreme Court choice: A political promise, but also a matter of justice Let's 'reimagine' political corruption MORE (R-Ky.), who has helped advance the bill so far.
"Joe BidenJoe BidenFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Romney tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi sidesteps progressives' March 1 deadline for Build Back Better MORE’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.