Senate infrastructure test vote fails as Republicans block debate, push for more details

A procedural vote on a $1 trillion infrastructure plan failed on Wednesday in the Senate, as Republicans sought more time to negotiate on the public-works spending proposal.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, set the test vote in hopes of beginning debate on the legislation, which is still being written. But Republicans, whose votes were needed to advance the measure, said they’d oppose moving forward without more details on its contents and how it would be paid for.

Democrats needed the support of at least 10 Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance the infrastructure deal. No Republicans voted “yes.”

Speaking on the Senate floor, Schumer said a bipartisan group was “close to finishing their product” on infrastructure and argued lawmakers should be comfortable moving forward.

Republicans said they were not.

“We’re just not ready,” Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, told CNBC on Wednesday morning. “It’s going to take a little more time.” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in remarks on the floor, “around here, we typically write the bills before we vote on them. That’s the custom.”

Some Republicans, including Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, were pressing to delay the vote until Monday to give negotiators more time to reach a deal.

Shortly after the vote, a group of 22 senators working on a deal said they were close to an agreement.

“We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement. We will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right — and are optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal to strengthen America’s infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in the coming days,” read a statement from the group, which includes Collins, Romney and Democrats such as Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chris Coons of Delaware.

Schumer on Tuesday declined to comment on whether he would bring the infrastructure bill up again if the procedural vote failed Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, has said if the infrastructure deal falls apart, he wants to include it in a bigger package Democrats are aiming to pass along party lines.  

The infrastructure
package is one element of President Joe Biden’s massive economic agenda, which also includes a plan to spend $3.5 trillion on education, climate resiliency and support for families.

Biden pressed for both measures in a speech on Monday, pushing back against critics who say his plans are spurring inflation.

Read: Biden says inflation expected to be temporary as he pushes big infrastructure, social spending packages

U.S. stocks
rose for a second day Wednesday, as healthy corporate earnings reports helped support a rebound from a plunge that kicked off the week on fears that the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus in many countries would slow the economic recovery from the pandemic.