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Chuck Schumer & Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sit down for a meeting in the U.S. Capitol on July 21, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

After Republicans Block Infrastructure Debate, Dems Urged to 'Stop Dragging Their Feet'

"The GOP's plan all along was to drag out this process and make it as painful as possible," said the Sunrise Movement's advocacy director.

Jessica Corbett

While Senate Republicans' move Wednesday to block debate on unfinished bipartisan infrastructure legislation was widely expected across the political spectrum, some progressive campaigners and lawmakers responded with calls for Democrats to focus on what they can achieve without the GOP.

"Republicans made it clear from the start that they're not interested in working with Democrats."
—Lauren Maunus, Sunrise Movement

"We've been saying for months that these bipartisan negotiations are a waste of time," said Lauren Maunus, advocacy director for the Sunrise Movement, in a statement after the vote. "Republicans made it clear from the start that they're not interested in working with Democrats."

The youth-led climate advocacy group has not only expressed doubt about the effectiveness of bipartisanship in the current U.S. political system, it has also criticized plans put forth by President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats as inadequate—instead calling for at least a $10 trillion investment in infrastructure, jobs, and care policies over the next decade.

"We are up against the climate crisis, which has been killing hundreds of people this summer, and can't afford to postpone action any longer," Maunus said. "Democrats must stop dragging their feet and use their power to deliver for the American people."

Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, concurred. "Enough. We can't wait on Republicans any longer," she said. "They had a chance to come to the table, negotiate in good faith and deliver for the American people. They failed to do so."

"The Republican Party is more interested in spouting conspiracy theories and lies about the last election than actually governing," she said. "They have shown they are not a serious governing party and they should no longer be treated as one. It is time to move on without them."

Senate Republicans on Wednesday united in opposition to moving forward with a bill that is still being negotiated. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—who said ahead of the procedural vote that he remains committed to passing both a bipartisan deal and a reconciliation package—changed his vote to "no" so that he can bring the vote up again.

Key Republicans insist their "no" is only temporary. "We're a no today because we're not ready," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the lead GOP negotiator, according to Politico. "We're saying we do want to take up this bill as soon as we are, and we think that'll be Monday."

CNBC reports that the message was echoed in a joint statement from a bipartisan group of 22 senators working on the infrastructure deal.

"We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement," the group said. "We will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right—and are optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal to strengthen America's infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in the coming days."

"We appreciate our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and the administration, working with us to get this done for the American people," the senators added.

Maunus, meanwhile, pointed out that back in May, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that "100% of my focus is on stopping this new administration."

According to the Sunrise leader, "The GOP's plan all along was to drag out this process and make it as painful as possible in an effort to block urgently needed legislation to stop climate change and help working people."

"Biden and Schumer must realize they can't rely on the GOP and instead direct their caucus to focus on a bold reconciliation package—one greater than the $3.5 trillion proposed—that must include and go beyond all climate investments previously outlined in the bipartisan infrastructure framework," she said.

"We need Democrats to pass an infrastructure package that will put us towards a Green New Deal," Maunus added. "We need a fully funded Civilian Climate Corps, real investments in transit, schools, housing, renewable energy, and more to transform our economy while combating the climate crisis and creating millions of good jobs in the process."

Mary Small, national advocacy director at Indivisible, said in a statement, "I don't know how many examples we need before Democrats finally understand that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans do not negotiate in good faith."

"We're tired of watching this game, so certainly Senate Democrats are getting tired of playing it," Small said. "Pass a bold reconciliation bill that rebuilds our economy, and doesn't need Republican votes. Kill the filibuster so we can get to the business of governing. This is getting ridiculous."

Epting of MoveOn also agreed that "Democrats should immediately move to reconciliation and pass a bill that meets the size and scope of the multiple crises this nation faces."

"We cannot afford to wait one more minute for more political games from Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans," she said. "Their goal is only obstruction. The time for action is now.”

Some progressives in the U.S. House and Senate also responded to the GOP vote Wednesday by calling for a greater focus on the measure Democrats plan to pass through the budget reconciliation process:

Earlier Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who had advocated for spending more than $3.5 trillion—wrote for The Guardian that Democrats must continue to fight for their reconciliation package because the future of working families, U.S. democracy, and the planet are all "at stake."

Even at its current smaller scale, if passed, the reconciliation package "will be the most consequential piece of legislation for working people, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor since FDR and the New Deal of the 1930s," said the Senate Budget Committee chair.

"It will also put the U.S. in a global leadership position as we combat climate change," Sanders wrote. "Further, and importantly, this legislation will create millions of good-paying jobs as we address the long-neglected needs of working families and the planet."

Schumer, for his part, said ahead of the failed procedural vote that "I have every intention of passing both major infrastructure packages—the bipartisan infrastructure framework and a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions—before we leave for the August recess."

This post has been updated with comment from Indivisible and MoveOn.

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