Fast-Tracked Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Passage Derailed By Single Senator’s Fit Of Budget Hawkery

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing (Photo by Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)
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August 6, 2021 11:13 a.m.

Thursday evening, a giddy possibility reared its head. 

Could the bipartisan infrastructure plan actually pass … tonight? After months of fits and starts, near-deaths, resurrections born from flurries of calls and, apparently, exclusive cook-outs on Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) houseboat, payfor meltdowns and about six solid weeks of Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) telling reporters that it was just about finished — could the whole thing really be wrapped up in a few short hours? 

No. Come on, this is the Senate we’re talking about, and not Aaron Sorkin’s.

Senate leadership proposed the fast-tracked scheme Thursday — a process called “hotlining” — that required all 100 senators to agree to sprint through around 16 amendment votes and secure a final vote that night. That meant that just one obstinate senator could derail the plan. 

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Hope sprang eternal as the news came that it — gasp — wouldn’t be Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), always a likely candidate.

But never fear, another was ready and willing to don the Cruzian mantle. 

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a freshman and former ambassador to Japan during the Trump administration, lodged an objection. 

We at TPM are left to assume that Hagerty spent the duration of the Trump administration, for which he worked, gnashing his teeth and rending his garments at the unaccounted-for spending that added an eye-popping $7.8 trillion to the national debt during those four years.

Hagerty’s opposition won’t actually derail the infrastructure package — he was not expected to vote for the bill anyway, and had voted against a move to advance it last week unlike 17 of his GOP colleagues. Instead, his performance will just keep things moving at a crawl.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) filed cloture late Thursday night, meaning it’ll take a day to “ripen” — I swear I’m not making this up — and slate the key cloture vote for Saturday. That’ll really be the determinative moment where 10 Republicans will need to join Democrats (if no Democrats defect) to overcome the 60-vote threshold and move the bill toward passage. From there, it’s smooth sailing as the final vote only requires a simple majority. 

Increasingly cranky senators also spent Thursday night trying to hammer out a final few amendment disagreements, which gummed up the works.

Now all eyes turn to Saturday, when hopefully no senators have vacations already booked.

“We have been trying to vote on amendments all day but have encountered numerous objections from the other side,” Schumer prickled at around midnight. “However, we very much want to finish this important bill, so we will reconvene Saturday at noon.”

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