Early Light

July 19, 2021

It's Infrastructure Week

On the road to bipartisan infrastructure legislation, hazardous conditions lie ahead.

Senate Majority Leader Schumer will today open the process leading to a Wednesday test vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, and as Punchbowl reports, “it seems clear that the bipartisan proposal won’t get 60 votes at this moment.” That’s no surprise, since the BIF has not even been crafted into legislative language yet.

Schumer and Speaker Pelosi are angling to push through a $3,500,000,000,000 spending package in addition to the BIF bill. If the stand-alone bipartisan bill fails, infrastructure supporters may be forced to back that budget-buster — or settle for nothing at all.

Is Schumer trying to sabotage the BIF? That’s unclear, but as CNN says, this is the week when “it could all come together, or it could all fall apart.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) — who led the effort to reopen negotiations last month when they appeared to have failed — said Sunday that he will not vote to open debate until the legislative language is crafted. Cassidy told Fox News Sunday, “How can I vote for cloture when the bill isn’t written? Unless you want program failure, unless Schumer doesn’t want this to happen, you need a little bit more time to get it right.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), another key negotiator, told CNN, “Chuck Schumer, with all due respect, is not writing the bill, nor is Mitch McConnell, by the way. So that’s why we shouldn’t have an arbitrary deadline of Wednesday. We should bring the legislation forward when it’s ready.”

According to the WaPo, “Despite months of frenetic talks, lawmakers are slated to return to the Capitol on Monday in the same political position in which they departed last week: They broadly support” new infrastructure spending, “yet remain plagued by schisms over how to finance the still-forming package.”

The negotiators’ work continues. A provision to increase IRS enforcement funding as a way of increasing revenues over the long term drew criticism from some GOP negotiators, and Portman said Sunday that the provision has been removed. That leaves a funding gap that “casts new uncertainty over the talks,” the WSJ says.

The linking of the broadly popular BIF to the one-party $3.5 trillion spending package is also at issue. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says he and other Republicans could copy the tactics of Texas state Democrats protesting voting legislation by leaving Washington to block consideration.

A group of 10 House Democrats, including Problem Solvers Caucus members Carolyn Bordeaux (D-GA), Jared Golden (D-ME), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Susie Lee (D-NV), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), are urging Speaker Pelosi to bring the BIF to the floor as soon as possible, rather than carrying out her threat to delay it until after the Senate reconciliation vote.

This is the time for supporters of two-party solutions to urge their senators to hold the line. They will have some support from the Build Together Coalition’s CEO Working Group, which “is set to endorse the physical infrastructure deal today and run a slate of ads to support it,” Politico says.

Also…

· The WSJ looks at the key role Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) is playing, both in the infrastructure fight and in the White House’s broader efforts to get moderates to support the president’s agenda.

· Axios: “Many rural voters are reflexively distrustful of progressive solutions to everything from the pandemic to infrastructure,” so some rural House Democrats are calling on the party to change its approach.

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