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Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Package Fails A Test Vote In The Senate

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., walks off the Senate floor Wednesday during a procedural vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill that ultimately failed.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., walks off the Senate floor Wednesday during a procedural vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill that ultimately failed.

Updated July 21, 2021 at 10:44 PM ET

Senate Democrats fell short in their efforts to begin debate Wednesday on a bill that would act as the vehicle for President Biden's bipartisan infrastructure package, but a broad group of senators said they "are close to a final agreement."

Sixty votes were needed to take up the measure, but just 49 senators approved moving forward on Wednesday.

The vote on the roughly $1 trillion package, which includes about half that in new spending, came nearly a month after Biden appeared outside the White House with a bipartisan group of senators to announce an agreement on a framework for an infrastructure plan. The measure is targeted at traditional infrastructure investments such as roads, bridges, water systems and an expansion of broadband internet.

Despite bipartisan buy-in, finalizing the legislative text, and in particular how the plan would be paid for, has presented roadblocks. Republicans have repeatedly said they can't support voting to advance a bill that isn't yet fully written.

"I think we need to see the bill before we decide whether or not to vote for it," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Capitol Hill reporters on Monday.

But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer insisted Wednesday's vote did not represent a "fish or cut bait moment" and was not an "attempt to jam anyone."

"A 'yes' vote [Wednesday] is simply that the Senate is ready to begin debating a bipartisan infrastructure bill," he said Tuesday during a Senate Democratic leadership news conference. "No more, no less. We've waited a month – it's time to move forward."

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who is part of that bipartisan group, said the deadline didn't give the group enough time to finalize the details. He told reporters Tuesday that the group had asked Schumer to delay the cloture vote until next Monday.

"Until we've ironed out all of the remaining issues, Wednesday is premature," Romney said, "but I think Monday would be sufficient time for us to get all the remaining issues solved, and socialize the legislation with our colleagues so they know how they want to vote."

In a statement Wednesday from Romney and 21 other senators from both parties, the members said that they have "made significant progress and are close to a final agreement," adding that they were optimistic they could finish "in the coming days."

Schumer could bring the bipartisan measure back up for another vote once a deal is finalized.

Biden weighed in just hours after the failed vote. During a CNN town hall in Cincinnati, he said he expects another procedural vote to pass in the Senate when the measure is brought back, adding he believes it will happen Monday.

Speaking to an entirely vaccinated audience at Cincinnati's Mount St. Joseph University, Biden stressed that the bipartisan nature of the bill would hold.

"It's a good thing," he said of the measure, "and I think we're gonna get done."

Wednesday's vote also came as Schumer and Senate Democrats are moving ahead on a separate "human infrastructure" package with a price tag of $3.5 trillion that they plan to advance without GOP support. Schumer has set a separate Wednesday deadline for an internal agreement among all 50 Senate Democrats that they will vote to move forward with a budget resolution in the coming weeks.

NPR's Susan Davis and Elena Moore contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.