Schumer tees up bipartisan infrastructure vote after Republicans urge delay

FILE PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Schumer speaks to news reporters following a deal on infrastructure on Capitol Hill in Washington
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(Refiles to add dropped word "vote" in paragraph 1)

By David Morgan and Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday he would set a procedural vote on a bipartisan infrastructure package that is a key part of Democratic President Joe Biden's agenda for Wednesday, increasing pressure on negotiators as they struggled with ways to pay for the cost of the measure.

Schumer said the Wednesday vote did not require Senate negotiators hammer out every provision in the bill by then and that Democratic leaders of the bipartisan group supported his approach.

"The motion to proceed on Wednesday is simply about getting the legislative process started here on the Senate floor. It is not a deadline to determine every final detail of the bill," Schumer said on the Senate floor.

The announcement came as Republicans urged Schumer to delay the Wednesday vote if the legislation was not yet fully written.

"If he moves ahead arbitrarily, before they actually come to some sort of a deal, then yeah, all it's going to do is drag it out, make it harder to get a deal in the end," Senator John Thune, the chamber's No. 2 Republican, told reporters.

Thune said provisions for covering the cost of the bill were "a long ways from being ready."

It was unclear if the bipartisan bill under negotiation could garner the necessary 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to advance.

Republican Senator Rob Portman, one of the leaders of the group, has said he would vote against the bill if legislation was not ready. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said that the upper chamber should not vote on agreeing to debate a bill before senators see the text of it.

Portman said on Sunday the group had scuttled a proposal for the Internal Revenue Service to step up its pursuit of tax cheats.

But Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, who was one of the members of the bipartisan group, suggested the group had not made a final decision to jettison the tax proposal, telling reporters: "Who said we're taking the IRS enforcement out?"

Senators in the group said they had met late into Sunday evening and had planned to meet again for hours on Monday. They said they were considering provisions to reinstate fees on chemicals to fund the Superfund program, which cleans up contaminated waste sites, as well as other possible fees to cover costs.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester said he thought the group could have legislative text by Wednesday, Tester told reporters.

Schumer has said infrastructure was moving on two tracks. Aside from the first, bipartisan track, Democrats are also moving forward with a different $3.5 trillion infrastructure package using a procedural tool known as reconciliation. It allows certain bills to advance through the Senate with only a simple majority of votes, instead of the 60 needed for most legislation.

Republicans oppose the second track.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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