Republican lawmakers skewered Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for setting Wednesday as a deadline to begin debate on a bipartisan infrastructure bill – even though there's still no legislative text for the proposed $1.2 trillion framework.
The GOP senators ripped into the New York Democrat's proposed timeline, arguing that he should let legislators draft the bill first and possibly set up a vote for next week. Schumer is also pushing forward with a massive $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that includes much of President Biden's "Build Back Better" economic agenda and would drastically expand the social safety net.
"Chuck Schumer, with all due respect, is not writing the bill, nor is Mitch McConnell by the way," Sen. Rob Portman, one of the lead GOP negotiators, said during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union." "That's why we shouldn't have an arbitrary deadline of Wednesday. We should bring the legislation forward when it's ready."
That sentiment was echoed by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who questioned how he could vote for a bill when there's no text accompanying it.
"How can I vote for cloture when the bill isn’t written?" Cassidy said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday." "Unless you want program failure, unless Schumer doesn’t want this to happen, you need a little bit more time to get it right."
When asked by reporters on Monday whether he was definitely planning to move forward with Wednesday's procedural vote, Schumer declined to comment.
The tentative deal appeared to be in danger of falling apart on Sunday, when Portman announced that lawmakers were no longer beefing up IRS tax enforcement to pay for the measure, which includes roughly $500 billion in new spending. Other sources of funding include redirecting unused federal unemployment money from the 26 states that are prematurely ending the relief program and repurposing other COVID-relief measures.
Increasing IRS enforcement of tax collection to pay for the $579 billion in new funding emerged as a major point of contention among the 22 senators working in the bipartisan group, with Republican lawmakers lining up against the proposal. The deal would have provided an additional $40 billion in funding for the IRS, which has seen dwindling resources and decades of budget cuts.
But Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said Monday that negotiators figured out a pay-for to replace the IRS enforcement, though he declined to specify what it is, according to an NBC News reporter. Tester suggested that the bipartisan group may not meet the Wednesday deadline.
"It's hard to say, it's not looking like that but it could," he said. "I still think it could come together."
The proposed framework focuses on "core" infrastructure projects and would allocate billions for roads and bridges, rails including Amtrak, public transit, broadband infrastructure and power, including grid authority, and other areas.