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Senate Republicans have blocked an effort to advance the Democrats’ infrastructure plan on Wednesday afternoon, producing a massive setback for the Biden administration’s efforts to go ahead with a bill expected to cost roughly $3.5 trillion ($4.1 trillion with a $600 billion bipartisan plan) to fund the Build Back Better agenda.
The Republicans blocked Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s attempt to move forward on a proposal, arguing that the party could not advance a plan that is still being negotiated.
It was blocked 49 to 51, with Schumer changing his vote to “no” for procedural reasons so he could bring the bill back up, as reported by The Recount.
Senate Republicans block Democrats’ effort to begin debate on bipartisan infrastructure bill, 49-51.
(Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changes vote to “No” for procedural reasons so he can bring bill back up.) pic.twitter.com/I5tUKnCqrI
— The Recount (@therecount) July 21, 2021
According to Politico, the block amounted to a setback to Biden’s agenda, although members of both parties expect at least one more attempt in the coming days.
Should discussions continue, they may conclude over a bill expected to provide nearly $600 billion in funding.
Earlier in the day, a number of Republicans, led by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, rounded up nearly a dozen votes from the GOP camp for early next week.
Portman was working on a letter to Schumer vowing to move forward after Wednesday.
Portman told reporters early Wednesday that he delivered the letter to Schumer with 11 Republican signers.
The letter stipulates that Republicans “intend to [advance] the bill pending final negotiations that are going through right now and on getting a score back” on the bill’s financing, said a Republican senator familiar with the letter. But Republican leaders remain skeptical that the conference will provide the votes to move forward until the group finally produces hundreds of pages of legislative text.
The Republicans supportive of moving the bill ahead includes Portman and Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mitt Romney of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.
Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, who is part of the bipartisan group, said he did not sign the letter.
“I don’t know why we would set a deadline of Monday,” Moran said. “I don’t think this is the right strategy.”
According to Politico, Portman and other Republicans intended to show Schumer that the Republicans intend to move forward, just not on Wednesday.
Schumer set up the vote on the unfinished bill, which does not yet have full bipartisan support, to pressure negotiators to finish up their work after months of discussions between Senate Republicans, Democrats, and the White House.
“We’re going to have to have a product. You can’t vote on a framework. There just isn’t the kind of trust around it right now that would allow that to happen,” said Republican Senate Minority Whip John Thune.
A Republican senator who spoke to Politico under anonymity said that the Republicans were at risk of getting out “over their skis” by committing to an unfinished agreement.
Schumer, meanwhile, remains insistent that the bill will pass, according to West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin. He said that while “at first [he] was concerned” that the vote on Wednesday would send “the wrong message” about the ongoing negotiations, Schumer assured him that if 60 votes exist to pass it, it will proceed as planned.
Manchin stated that Schumer “will bring this back to reconsideration if we show him we have the support.”
“We all want the same thing, to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
But in order to finish the bill, we first need to start,” Schumer said ahead of the vote.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell disagreed, suggesting that Schumer was “intent on holding a vote he knows will fail” and called the move a “stunt.”