Lawmakers working on bipartisan infrastructure bill face new obstacles.

Lawmakers scrambling to finalize a bipartisan infrastructure bill are facing new obstacles, with key Senate Republicans warning that they would not move forward with a planned test vote this week on an unfinished bill and negotiators jettisoning a crucial proposal to help pay for it.

Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, said on Sunday that lawmakers axed a provision to toughen tax enforcement at the I.R.S., which had been under discussion as a crucial source of financing for the plan, which would devote nearly $600 billion to roads, bridges, broadband and other physical infrastructure.

“We don’t have a product yet, and we won’t have a product until we can finish negotiations properly,” Mr. Portman said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

His comments indicated a thorny road ahead for senators who have been toiling to translate a deal they struck with President Biden into legislative text ahead of a vote that the top Senate Democrat has said could come as early as Wednesday.

Anti-tax conservatives led by Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, had lobbied Republicans against giving billions of dollars to the I.R.S. to help beef up tax enforcement, warning that it would give the agency too much power. With that provision no longer under consideration, lawmakers will have to continue searching for alternatives to finance the sprawling bill.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, announced last week that he intends to hold a preliminary vote as early as midweek on the plan, an attempt to ratchet up pressure for Republicans and Democrats to seal their agreement. Republicans have chafed at the vote, calling it an arbitrary deadline.

“How can I vote for a cloture when the bill isn’t written?” Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Unless you want program failure, unless Senator Schumer doesn’t want this to happen, you need a little bit more time to get it right.”

The bipartisan group continued negotiations over the weekend, wrestling over how to structure and finance the measure. They are still short of the support needed to push the measure past the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster and take it up. Doing so would require the votes of all 50 Democrats and independents, and 10 Republicans.

At the same time, Democrats are working to iron out the details of a far more expansive $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that includes expansions of child care, education and programs to address climate change. That proposal, which Mr. Schumer directed Democrats to agree on by this Wednesday, would unlock use of the fast-track reconciliation process, allowing the party to pass a sweeping economic package without Republican votes.

Source: Read Full Article