Vote falls short, but infrastructure talks continue

The Senate’s rejection Wednesday of a procedural step to advance a still unwritten infrastructure bill sets the stage for a second attempt, possibly early next week.

While Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said little Wednesday about pleas from Republicans in the 22-member bipartisan group negotiating details of the $1.2 trillion legislation to schedule the vote next week, his actions hinted at his intentions.

By changing his vote to oppose cloture on the motion to proceed to the plan’s legislative vehicle, Schumer allowed the Senate “to reconsider this vote at a future time,” he said on the Senate floor. He did not specify when.

Republican negotiators, who unanimously opposed moving forward, argued that the vote was not a referendum on the bipartisan framework itself but an opportunity to iron out two lingering disagreements: transit funding and which pots of unspent COVID-19 relief dollars to use to help pay for the package, which includes $579 billion in new spending.

Those Republicans, led by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, sent Schumer a letter Wednesday urging him to hold the vote again next week, vowing that they will be able to deliver the 10 GOP votes needed to invoke cloture and begin debate. That group shifted membership slightly, with Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran declining to sign the letter but North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer, who had not previously been involved in negotiations, signing on.

“Leader Schumer wanted to understand if there were 10 Republicans in favor of getting on the bill,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, one of the negotiators. “And we’ve indicated, yeah, there are 10. Probably more.”

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