- Senate vote scheduled Wednesday on infrastructure legislation.
- Republicans urge a delay until Monday, so legislative language can be drafted and the cost totaled.
- Democratic Sen. Jon Tester says ‘it will be done.’
WASHINGTON – Bipartisan negotiations stretched deep into the evening Tuesday as senators scrambled to find agreement on a massive bipartisan infrastructure bill, a core part of President Joe Biden’s economic plan that faces a vote Wednesday to formally debate the measure.
But Republicans have warned the vote could fail if rushed, as senators haggle over details on transit and how to pay for the entire package. Several Republican negotiators have said they’ll vote against beginning the debate Wednesday, potentially postponing Democratic hopes to move the bill closer to passage.
Republican negotiators have urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to wait until Monday to begin debating the bill so they have legislative language and a score of how much it will cost.
But after talks ran to 11 p.m. Tuesday, the latest in a series of late-night talks, Democrats were optimistic that a deal could be reached Wednesday morning before the vote and legislative language drafted afterward.
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“I really believe, tomorrow it will be done,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said late Tuesday. “We are so close.”
A series of calls are scheduled Wednesday morning to complete negotiations, which could be wrapped up by noon, he said.
The vote is scheduled about 3 p.m.
But Republicans led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have insisted until now on having legislative text for a vote. McConnell said even if the vote fails Wednesday, no time will be lost if Schumer calls for another vote Monday.
The vote on whether to begin debating the package requires 60 out of 100 senators to overcome a potential filibuster from opponents. Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to join them, to succeed.
Republican negotiators characterized the talks late Tuesday as resolving disputes rather than completing legislative language.
“We’re making great progress,” said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the lead Republican negotiator.
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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said “it’s going to take time to get the legislative language drafted and the provisions scored.”
“We’re working on it as soon as possible,” she said. “We’re doing very well.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she remains optimistic.
“We are working on all of our outstanding issues and we’re really optimistic,” she said.
The legislation aims to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to build roads, bridges, railways and broadband, part of President Joe Biden’s broader economic priorities.
While this measure generally enjoys bipartisan support, Republicans are wary of Democratic plans to push more spending legislation totaling $3.5 trillion for provisions such as expanding Medicare and subsidizing two years of community college.
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Infrastructure negotiations have already lasted a month, which is why Schumer scheduled the vote.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told reporters late Tuesday the time will be worth it if the bill succeeds, after “the twists and turns and how many times we got close to death.”
“I would not be messing up your nights that many times in a row if I didn’t think this is going to get done,” Warner said.