Biden's Infrastructure Plan Frustrates Some Progressive Dems Day Before Senate Vote

President Joe Biden's ambitious infrastructure deal—tailored to a bipartisan plan to get Senate approval—faces pushback from progressive Democrats in the U.S. House, potentially threatening the billions of dollars it would provide for states to upgrade crumbling roads and bridges.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has set the bill on a course for a crucial Senate vote on Wednesday to proceed, but some Republicans who have taken part in the bipartisan negotiations expressed concern that the vote could come before a final deal is reached.

Meanwhile, it also faces pushback from progressives in the House, who will have to sign off on the plan and who say it's not big enough and doesn't include parts of the Green New Deal climate initiative that they see as critical for their support. They want a larger, trillion-dollar bill that would address fossil fuel dependency.

"This is an opportunity that we cannot let go by," Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, told reporters while flanked by "Go Bigger" banners outside the Capitol Tuesday. "People need help—they need investment from the federal government."

On the slimmed-down plan, DeFazio said, "it essentially, with a little green on the side, would lock us into the failed policies of the last century."

Rahna Epting, executive director of the progressive MoveOn.org campaign, told supporters that the Biden administration is missing out on a chance to pass a sweeping plan.

"We won the election, we protected the results and now it's time for Democrats and all of us to deliver," she said.

The White House appeared optimistic about the quick turnaround, though.

"I will reiterate that we absolutely support the steps by Leader Schumer to move forward," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during Tuesday's daily briefing. "We believe that it's not only achievable, but we owe it to the families in red states and blue states who have waited so long for improvements to their lives—less time wasted in traffic, ensuring that every American, including underserved rural areas, get access to broadband."

The biggest concern for more conservative Republicans who have been skeptical of Biden is that negotiators haven't hammered out where the money will come from to pay for the nearly $600 billion proposed for roads, bridges and broadband that he's endorsed. To move ahead with the debate, the legislation first needs 60 votes in the Senate, where Democrats hold a razor-thin 50-vote majority, plus a tie-breaker from Vice President Kamala Harris.

"I'd like to make sure that we have a chance to explain what's in the bill to our colleagues and resolve any outstanding issues, and we'll see if we can't get some people to support it," Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican and former presidential candidate, told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday. "Before we've been able to resolve those issues, we're setting ourselves up for failure."

Other Republicans offered a more harsh assessment, arguing the proposal is dead on arrival when it comes up Wednesday afternoon.

"I think the likelihood that anything gets done by the end of the week ... I think it's really unlikely," Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, told Capitol reporters Tuesday afternoon. "In fact, I don't I don't see any way possible that this is on the floor next week—there's just too many things left to do, and scores to get and pay-fors to explain and vet."

If it passes the Senate, it's unclear whether it will muster the votes needed to pass the House, which also has a narrow Democratic majority of 220 to 211.

Progressives voice frustration over Biden infrastructure
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) jokes about arriving on time with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R) (D-CA) during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Schumer has set tomorrow as the deadline for the U.S. Senate to begin debate on pending infrastructure legislation. Win McNamee/Getty Images