GOP senators pushed back against Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for scheduling test votes Wednesday on a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion budget package, saying there are too many lingering questions — including how they will be paid for and what’s in them.
“How can I vote for cloture when the bill isn’t written?” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) asked on “Fox News Sunday.” “Unless you want program failure, unless Schumer doesn’t want this to happen, you need a little bit more time to get it right.”
Cassidy called on Schumer and the White House to work with them on a version that could pass the chamber.
“Right now, I can frankly tell you that they’ve not. We’re competing with their $3.5 trillion plan. They want everything reasonable on their side, not helping us,” he said. “Again, we can pass this. We just don’t need program failure.”
But he said “if we get the pay-fors, we can pass this.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), like Cassidy one of the group of 22 bipartisan senators trying to hammer out the $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, said talks are continuing over the weekend on how to pay for the massive plan.
“We are still negotiating. In fact, last night I was negotiating some of the final details with the White House, and later today we’ll be having additional negotiations with the Republicans and Democrats who come together to put this bill into a track that’s very unusual for Washington,” Portman said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“This is a little confusing for people because it’s actually 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats putting this together. Chuck Schumer, with all due respect, is not writing the bill. Nor is [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell, by the way. So that’s why we shouldn’t have an arbitrary deadline of Wednesday,” he said.
He said one proposal to help fund the deal by increasing Internal Revenue Service enforcement of tax cheats is no longer an option in the infrastructure legislation.
“That’s one reason we’re having initial meetings today and had more meetings over the past few days on this topic. There are other ways to do this,” Portman said. “I’ve been on the phone a lot with the congressional budget office and with the joint committee on taxation over the weekend. And we have a number of pay-fors. And that’s important that it be paid for.”
He said the IRS proposal faced opposition from other Republicans and the budget bill, that Democrats are hoping to push through the Senate by reconciliation, also included proposals for the IRS.
Boosting tax enforcement is estimated to raise $100 billion over 10 years.
“One reason it’s not part of the proposal is, and we did have pushback. Another reason is that we found out that the Democrats were going to put a proposal into the reconciliation package, which was not just similar to the one we had but with a lot more IRS enforcement,” Portman said.
He was asked by CNN host Dana Bash about why the Republicans had a problem with Schumer wanting to force a vote on cloture, a process that would allow for debate to begin.
“Start debate on what? We don’t have a product yet. And we won’t have a product until we can finish the negotiations properly,” Portman said.
“Again, this is a complex bill. It involves several committees. It involves a lot of very tough issues, because we have got to resolve them between us first.”
Schumer announced he had scheduled the votes for Wednesday, even though the details were being negotiated.
“The time has come to make progress,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor. “And we will. We must.”
Sixty votes are needed to begin debate on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill – meaning 10 Republicans will have to vote with all 50 Democratic senators.
While the bill addresses typical infrastructure projects like roads and bridges, the $3.5 trillion budget package includes a spending hike for education, efforts to battle climate change and social programs like Medicare.
McConnell blasted the spending plan as “a grand socialist experiment.”
Schumer said he wanted Democrats to reach an agreement on the $3.5 trillion plan so that all 50 Democratic senators would support the deal and ram it through the chamber with 51 votes under reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that allows them to bypass the 60-vote filibuster with Vice President Kamala Harris’ vote topping the threshold.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn’t consider the bipartisan bill until the Senate passed the larger package through reconciliation.
Cassidy said he supports the infrastructure plan.
“The $1.2 trillion is good for the United States of America. it would be bipartisan, representing the interests of all 50 states, not just those represented by Democrats, it actually addresses pent up demand for roads and bridges of my state, across the nation, and other things important,” Cassidy said on Fox News.
“Now the $3.5 trillion, if they want to go there on a straight party line vote, fueling ... inflation, making people more dependent upon the government. They’re going to address that. I’m just trying to take care of the infrastructure that our country needs that my state needs,” he said.
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