Partisan wrangling over a $1.2 billion infrastructure deal erupted into the open on Monday with fresh squabbles and former President Trump lobbing in his own grenade by urging Republicans to ditch the talks altogether.
The deadlock prompted Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to warn that further delays would mean the Senate staying in session into the August recess as he called on both sides to do something good for the American people.
‘We have reached a critical moment,’ he said.
‘The bipartisan group of senators has had nearly five weeks of negotiations since they first announced an agreement with President Biden.
‘It’s time for everyone to get to “yes” and produce an outcome for the American people.’
He spoke on the Senate floor a day after Democrats and the White House presented a new offer to Republicans, which was aimed at addressing unresolved issues including water funding, broadband, and highways and bridges.
But the response was short and sharp after Democrats briefed that Sen. Mitt Romney, one of the negotiators, had reneged on a deal over water funding and lead contamination.
‘This is laughably false,’ Romney’s office said in a statement.
‘As the White House’s own website shows, the deal on water was for $55 billion in new spending. After days of radio silence, Schumer now wants $70 billion. This is a direct violation of the bipartisan agreement.’
Time is running out for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to reach his goal of passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill before the August recess. Monday brought fresh gloom as tensions erupted into public and former President Trump urged Republicans to abandon talks
Former President Trump lobbed a grenade into the dispute, telling Republican senators they were being ‘savaged’ by Democrats and urging them to forget talks until after next year’s mid-terms when they will have a better negotiating position
Trump condemned Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handling of negotiations. ‘Mitch McConnell and his small group of RINOs wants nothing more than to get a deal done at any cost to prove that he can work with the Radical Left Democrats,’ he said
Winning bipartisan support for the infrastructure bill is critical to White House hopes of pushing through a bigger $3.5 billion spending package without Republican votes. On Monday, Biden said he was ‘optimistic’ about reaching a deal
Asked about the chances of reaching a compromise, President Biden told reporters: ‘I’m always optimistic.’
Yet time is ticking away after more than a month of negotiations.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he wants the bill passed before the August recess, which starts in two weeks time.
But he suffered a setback last week when Republicans voted against taking key a procedural step, saying the bill had yet to be written.
And the disputes bubbled into the open on Monday.
Former President Trump weighed in with a statement saying Republican senators were being ‘savaged.’
He blamed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other ‘Republicans in Name Only’ for trying to do a deal whatever the cost, and urged the party to wait until they back in the majority before negotiating.
‘It is so important to him that he is agreeing to almost anything,’ he said.
‘Don’t do the infrastructure deal, wait until after we get proper election results in 2022 or otherwise, and regain a strong negotiating stance.
‘Republicans, don’t let the radical left play you for weak fools and losers.’
Schumer hit back at his words, saying they were a recipe for gridlock.
‘We have the opportunity right now to actually accomplish something good for the American people,’ he said.
‘Will our Republican colleagues follow the absurd demands of the disgraced former president and his media allies, or will they get a good bipartisan deal over the finish line?
‘Republican senators must ignore former President Trump, if we’re ever going to make progress for the American people.’
The White House had hoped a bipartisan infrastructure plan could pass the House and Senate, leaving it free to use the congressional reconciliation mechanism to push through a $3.5 trillion expansion of healthcare, education, green energy and paid leave without Republican support.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said wrangling was to be expected and that staff worked through the weekend to try to secure a deal.
‘The president worked the phones all weekend and is continuing to,’ she said during the daily White House briefing.
‘We’re encouraged as we reach the final issues that need to be worked out, and are confident about the path forward.’
But she also admitted that ‘time is not endless.’
Senate Democrats are reportedly considering merging the two proposals if the bipartisan bill fails.
Axios reported last week that they are weighing adding the nearly $600 billion in spending already agreed by Republicans to the larger package.
However, it is unclear whether moderate Democratic senators, such as Joe Manchin, would support such a proposal.
Rising prices have heightened concerns that Biden’s spending plans could further ignite inflation.