TR Daily Broadband Could Be Left Out of Senate Infrastructure Bill This Week
Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Broadband Could Be Left Out of Senate Infrastructure Bill This Week

Despite pushback from Republican senators against being asked to move forward toward floor consideration of a bipartisan infrastructure bill whose provisions are still being negotiated, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said today in a floor statement that he still intends to go ahead with the plan he announced last week to seek a procedural vote tomorrow on a "shell bill" for which the bipartisan infrastructure bill or narrower infrastructure bills that have already cleared committees could later be substituted.

The bipartisan infrastructure framework announced last month (TR Daily, June 24) included $65 billion for broadband infrastructure, but that is not among the narrower bills that Majority Leader Schumer said he would include in an amendment if the parties negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure bill don’t finalize their bill.

When he announced his intentions last week (TR Daily, July 15), Sen. Schumer said that tomorrow would be the deadline both for the parties involved in the bipartisan infrastructure bill talks to finalize their agreement and for the Senate Democratic caucus to agree to move forward on the budget resolution with reconciliation instructions that are expected to include some of the measures from the Biden administration’s American Jobs and Families Plan that didn’t make it into the bipartisan infrastructure framework announced last month.

However, the bipartisan bill has not been finalized. During a press briefing today, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that "the only disagreement right now is on some pay-fors and we’re working through that." She added, "The primary issue is around tax enforcement on the wealthiest Americans. That was agreed to but now some Republicans have withdrawn their support."

In his floor statement, Sen. Schumer said, "If the bipartisan group can finalize the text of their agreement by Thursday, I will offer it as the pending substitute amendment. If, for whatever reason, the bipartisan group isn’t ready with their final text by Thursday, I will offer an amendment consisting only of the bipartisan infrastructure bills that have already gone through our Senate committees and are actually the core of the bipartisan infrastructure framework. They are the water bill, the highway bill, the rail and safety bill, and the energy bill. All of them are bipartisan."

If the latter approach is pursued, the bill could still be amended on the floor, he emphasized. "It is not the final word. There will be, no doubt, many Senators who would want to offer additional items from the bipartisan framework or other issues—from transit, to broadband, to resiliency and more. And, of course, if the bipartisan group finalizes their product over the weekend, Senators can offer it as an amendment at that point. And I will make sure that their amendment is in order," he added.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), who was negotiating with the White House on infrastructure legislation earlier in the year until President Biden ended the talks over Republicans’ unwillingness to make increases on investment totals comparable to the decreases he made from his original position (TR Daily, June 9), said today during an appearance on Bloomberg TV’s "Balance of Power" that "[i]f Senator Schumer pushes to have the vote tomorrow to proceed to a bill that has not been written, has not been scored, we don't know what it's going to cost, how it's going to get paid for, I don't see that passing. I just think that there's … too much at stake here. We need to see the details and that's what I'm awaiting myself."

Sen. Schumer said that tomorrow’s vote "is not a cynical ploy. It is not a fish-or-cut-bait moment. It is not an attempt to jam anyone. It is only a signal that the Senate is ready to get the process started—something the Senate has routinely done on other bipartisan bills this year."

Ms. Psaki also emphasized that tomorrow’s vote would be "a motion to proceed to a vehicle, not a vote on the final bill" and that there is "nothing abnormal about holding a vote like that." —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress BroadbandDeployment

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