As expected, Senate Republicans blocked a procedural vote to move forward with debate on the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Wednesday, though negotiations continue on the measure between a group of bipartisan lawmakers.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., scheduled the procedural vote in an apparent effort to motivate the bipartisan group to move faster on the bill, but Republicans balked, saying that bipartisan negotiators needed more time to finalize the deal.
The final vote was 49-51, largely along party lines, with Majority Leader Schumer changing his vote from a "Yes" to a "No" for procedural reasons, so the matter can be brought up again later. The measure needed 60 votes to begin debate on the bill.
The bipartisan group, which is seeking until Monday to have the measure finalized, saying in a statement that "We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement."
The lawmakers added that they are "optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal."
"We will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right," they added.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a key GOP negotiator in the bipartisan group, told CNBC that "we will be ready by the end of this week."
"We are so close," Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a crucial Democratic negotiator, said.
Schumer had expressed that Wednesday's vote was not a hard deadline for the final bill, which is in its fourth week of negotiations after a high-profile celebration of reaching an accord with the White House: "My colleagues are well aware that we often agree to move forward with debates on issues before we have the text in hand. We’ve done it twice this year already."
Though the measure was widely expected to fail due to Republican opposition, President Joe Biden was "extremely supportive" of Schumer's efforts to move ahead with the procedural vote, according to White House communications director Kate Bedingfield, who added: "The American people have waited a long time for these investments."
The nearly $1 trillion measure over five years includes about $579 billion in new spending on roads, broadband and other public works projects — a first phase of Biden’s infrastructure agenda, to be followed by a much broader $3.5 trillion second measure from Democrats next month. That measure includes funding for paid family leave, child care, family tax breaks, education and an expansion of Medicare.
Biden, who traveled to Ohio to promote his economic policies, is calling his infrastructure agenda a “blue-collar blueprint for building an American economy back.”
The president has been in touch with both Democrats and Republicans for several days, and his outreach will continue “until he has both pieces of legislation on his desk to sign them into law,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
While Biden proposes paying for his proposals with a tax hike on corporations and wealthy Americans who earn more than $400,000 a year, the bipartisan group has been working almost around the clock to figure out a compromise way to pay for its package, having dashed ideas for boosting the gas tax drivers pay at the pump or strengthening the Internal Revenue Service to go after tax scofflaws.
Instead, senators in the bipartisan group are considering rolling back a Trump-era rule on pharmaceutical rebates that could bring in some $170 billion to be used for infrastructure. They are also still haggling over public transit funds.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.