Senator Bill Hagerty continues to push for a “robust” debate on the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure package, rather than allowing Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer to pass the legislation with limited amendments.
Hagerty, a Republican from Tennessee, told The Washington Times that he refused to sign an agreement between Schumer and Republicans to expedite passage of the more than 2,700-page bill.
“I was not elected by the people of Tennessee to be the most popular person in the Senate. I was chosen to defend their interests, ”said Mr. Hagerty. “I cannot vote in conscience to expedite a flawed bill that puts us in debt more than a quarter of a trillion, especially when we have not had a chance to dig deeper and understand its substance or economic ramifications.”
Senate Democrats are pushing to pass the infrastructure bill this weekend so lawmakers can leave Washington for a month-long break. As such, Mr. Schumer has proposed considering two dozen amendments, out of more than 150 tabled, before a final vote takes place.
“We really want to finish this important bill,” said Mr. Schumer. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”
However, for the move to be successful, all 100 members of the Senate must agree. At the moment, Mr. Hagerty is the only one refusing to do so.
“There are many amendments that people want to overcome. I am not opposed to those amendments at all, ”he said. “Many of them are good amendments that would improve the legislation, if passed … I’m also not trying to get any of my amendments included.”
Hagerty’s refusal to support abandoning the Senate’s long tradition of unlimited debate comes as questions have been raised about funding for the infrastructure bill.
Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office deemed the $ 1.2 trillion spending package to be inadequately funded. The nonpartisan agency estimates that more than half of the $ 550 billion the package proposes in new spending is unfunded.
“That debt is going to be placed on the backs of our children and grandchildren,” said Mr. Hagerty. “And I haven’t heard anyone propose how to fix it. They just want to speed up everything. ”
Opposition to Schumer’s timeline for passing the bill also underscores the fragile position lawmakers are in at the moment.
Most senators have had little time to properly review the bill. The thousands of page text of the measure was released last week after it was crafted behind the scenes by President Biden and a bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers.
Hagerty says that process deprived congressional senators and committees of helping shape the final product.
“It’s certainly not the way a business person like me would approach something,” said Mr. Hagerty. “It is not moving in normal order, we have a series of committees … and that kind of structure should have been used to properly scrutinize and do due diligence so it doesn’t have any unintended consequences.”
The criticism is shared even by senior Democrats, who have been irritated by how the drafting process has unfolded.
“They just went on their own,” Sen. Benjamin Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment Committee’s sub-panel on transportation and infrastructure, said recently. “That’s not the way they should have done it.”
While most lawmakers have had little time to properly review the bill, many privately admit that it has enough support to become law. That was evidenced Saturday when 18 Republicans voted with 50 Democrats to break a filibuster and advance the legislation.
With approval secured, Schumer rushes to bypass normal Senate procedures and concludes consideration of the bill. As part of that process, the Majority Leader is using the amendments to be included as leverage against Republicans and Democrats who oppose speedy passage of the bill.
“It’s obvious that Senator Schumer is organizing this in a way to put more pressure on the people,” Mr. Hagerty said. “It doesn’t care about a good infrastructure. Clearly, if it did, it would allow the amendment process to move forward.
The Tennessee Republican suggested that Schumer was simply “checking a box” on infrastructure to move toward his real goal: passing a $ 3.5 trillion welfare bill.
The broader legislation, which Democrats have called “human infrastructure,” contains a host of liberal priorities, including new regulations on climate change and amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Because those provisions are unlikely to win support from the Republican Party, Democrats plan to pass them along party lines through budget reconciliation. The process allows spending measures to bypass the 60-vote Senate hurdle and pass with a simple majority of 51 votes.
“He’s the one who controls the schedule,” Mr. Hagerty said. “It is not the infrastructure bill that matters to him. He’s only trying to get to $ 3.5 trillion … it is my right, as a matter of conscience, not to continue with a process that puts us even faster on the doorstep of this $ 3.5 trillion package. ”