First U.S. Senate Vote on Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill set for Wednesday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
In this June 14, 2021, file photo the U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

A $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill will face an initial procedural floor vote in the U.S. Senate next Wednesday, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Thursday in an apparent effort to jump-start the process.

Legislators from both parties are working to forge a consensus on details of the measure, which is expected to fund roads, bridges, ports and other “hard” infrastructure and is backed by President Joe Biden, whose fellow Democrats narrowly control the Senate.

“All parties involved in the bipartisan infrastructure bill talks must now finalize their agreement so that the Senate can begin considering that legislation next week,” Schumer, a Democrat, said on the Senate floor.

Sixty votes will be needed to advance the measure next Wednesday, which means at least 10 Republicans will have to join all the Democrats in supporting the legislation in the Senate, which is divided 50-50 along party lines.

But first the working group of over 20 senators must resolve their own differences, including over how to fund the deal.

Signs of difficulty emerged on Thursday when the Republican leader of the group, Senator Rob Portman, said he would not vote to advance the measure next week unless the legislation was ready.

Portman told reporters lawmakers were moving as quickly as possible but he would not shortchange the process. “I’m not going to vote yes if we don’t have a product … we’re going to get it right.”

Another member of the group, Senator Mark Kelly, a Democrat, said lawmakers were working against a Friday deadline to produce the text.

Schumer said he also wanted all Senate Democrats to agree by Wednesday to move forward on an additional $3.5 trillion budget blueprint which embraces climate measures and beefs up spending on social services.

For this measure, Democrats will need the support of all 50 of their senators – plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote – to pass the $3.5 trillion measure over Republican opposition in the 100-seat Senate, using a maneuver called reconciliation that gets around the chamber’s normal 60-vote threshold to pass legislation.

Biden made the case for the sweeping $3.5 trillion initiative as well as the smaller bipartisan infrastructure bill on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, a day after leading Senate Democrats agreed on the $3.5 trillion blueprint.

But Republicans strongly oppose the larger spending plan, and not all Democrats have given their blessing to it either.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News on Thursday that all Republicans would vote “no” on the $3.5 trillion bill.