WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan ran into the unanimous blockade of GOP senators on Wednesday, who did not even agree to debate the initiative during a key vote.
The result shows the distrust that exists between the two parties and the difficulty of reaching an agreement despite the tireless work for weeks of a group of 22 Democratic and Republican legislators.
The plan, which calls for a $ 1.2 trillion investment in infrastructure over eight years, now faces an uncertain future, although the group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers said they are still “optimistic” about the possibility of a deal and believe that there could be a new vote “in the next few days.”
One of the senators of that group, Republican Mitt Romney, pointed out that the new vote could be next Monday.
The result on Wednesday, however, is a failure for the Democrats, who did not overcome the barrier of 60 supports they needed for the project to be considered in the hemicycle.
All 50 Republican senators voted unanimously against, while 49 Democrats voted in favor.
Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had to change his vote from “yes” to “no” to comply with Senate rules and ask that the bill be reconsidered in a few days.
Many of the eyes, in fact, were on Schumer, who had decided to force the vote to pressure Republicans to come to terms with Democrats.
However, the play went wrong and Republicans joined ranks to reject the measure.
More moderate Republicans, including Rob Portman, who has been leading negotiations on their side, criticized Schumer for forcing a procedural vote on legislation that is not yet even written.
“We have told him, that we are not prepared, that we are going to vote no,” Portman said before the vote in an interview with CNBC.
Schumer’s argument, however, was that the vote to begin debating the project did not mean that all the details had to be finalized and he considered that there would already be “many opportunities” to change the text.
For its part, the White House backed Schumer’s strategy by describing it as part of normal Senate operations.
In her daily press conference, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated that other times legislators had begun to debate legislative bills without knowing their full text, as happened with a law passed this week that condemns crimes against Asians of American origin.
The vote came nearly a month after Biden announced outside the White House with great fanfare that he had struck a deal with the bipartisan group of 22 senators.
The package is valued at $ 1.2 trillion over eight years, a figure lower than what Biden initially proposed in March of $ 2.3 trillion, and which the White House had to downgrade in the face of criticism from Republicans.
The goal of Biden’s plan is to modernize what he has called “physical infrastructure”: roads, bridges, railways, ports and airports, among others.
Out of the pact was the so-called “human infrastructure” necessary, for example, to reopen the education centers for children that have closed during the pandemic, as well as to combat poverty, the climate crisis and expand Medicare, a health coverage program for people over 65 years of age.
Those points were included in a $ 3.5 trillion social spending package that Democrats want to pass alone through a legislative formula known as reconciliation. It allows a bill to be passed with a simple majority of 50 votes, instead of the 60 normally required.