Home LATEST-NEWS Infrastructure bill ‘still under negotiation’, Republicans block key Senate vote

Infrastructure bill ‘still under negotiation’, Republicans block key Senate vote

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sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, talks to reporters before Senate Policy Lunches at the Capitol on June 5, 2018.

Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Republicans will vote against a major procedural vote on Wednesday to continue the debate on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in the Senate, GOP chief negotiator Rob Portman told CNBC on Wednesday.

“We’re just not ready yet,” the Ohio senator said in a “Squawk Box” interview.

“The bill is still under negotiation,” Portman said, adding that Republicans have spent days warning that “there is no way we can get this done” in time for Wednesday’s vote by Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y.

“So we’re going to vote no,” Portman said. “We just want time to get it right.”

He predicted that Republicans could support the vote if it is moved to Monday.

A spokesman for Schumer’s office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Portman’s comments.

Schumer and other Democratic leaders, backed by President Joe Biden, are trying to push the bipartisan infrastructure bill forward along with a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that is unlikely to get Republican support.

The bipartisan plan, which would fund a nationwide update to physical infrastructure systems such as bridges and waterways, would include $579 billion in new spending above a congressional baseline and $1.2 trillion in costs over eight years.

The budget resolution, meanwhile, would pump federal money into tackling a range of issues, including climate change and health care.

Faced with a grueling legislative calendar to deliver this “twin track” feat, Schumer has stepped up pressure on the group of senators negotiating the infrastructure bill to finalize the text of the legislation.

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Schumer pushed the legislative process forward Monday night — though the bill has yet to be written — by filing a motion to move forward with a shell bill that allows him to later swap infrastructure text.

On Tuesday, Schumer rejected Republican calls to delay the trial.

Wednesday’s vote, he said on the Senate floor, “is not an attempt to disturb anyone”, but rather is “just a signal that the Senate is ready to get the process underway”.

To invoke cloture and spark hours of debate in the Senate, Schumer needs the support of 60 senators in a chamber split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats.

Portman’s comments on CNBC suggest that Schumer is unlikely to reach that threshold.

Schumer said Tuesday that if the vote fails, Republicans would “deny the Senate a chance to consider the bipartisan amendment.”

“In order to complete the bill, we must first agree to begin,” he said.

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