Sen. Bill Hagerty blocked Democrats from ramming through President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill late Thursday, only hours after the package was found to be not fully paid for as promised.
Mr. Hagerty, a first-term Republican from Tennessee, refused to sign off on a deal between Democratic and GOP lawmakers to expedite passage of the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer had worked out an agreement with Republicans to pass a series of amendments to the infrastructure package en masse.
If successful, the tactic would have all but ended debate on the bill, setting up a final vote for Saturday. To succeed, however, all 100 members of the Senate had to acquiesce, something Mr. Hagerty refused.
He argued that it would be unfair to advance the infrastructure bill, especially since the Congressional Budget Office had only hours before deemed it as improperly unfunded.
“While we’ve heard for weeks that it would be paid for, it’s not. It didn’t just come up short, it came up a quarter of a trillion dollars short,” Mr. Hagerty said. “The CBO indicated this bill will increase the deficit by at least $256 billion when it was supposed to break even. Despite this news, I was asked to consent to expedite the process and pass it.”
The CBO’s analysis shattered a major selling point that the infrastructure package’s authors had been making for weeks: mainly that it was fully funded without raising taxes. In fact, the CBO found that more than half of the $550 billion proposed in new spending was unaccounted for.
Despite that fact, both Democrats and Republicans backed Mr. Schumer’s efforts to expedite the bill. Many of those did so out of an eagerness to wrap up legislative business and head home for a monthlong break.
Even some of Mr. Hagerty’s GOP colleagues that normally oppose large-spending deals, like Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, were eager to wrap up the infrastructure debate and depart Washington.
“I’m fine to finish whenever people get tired of whatever we’re doing right now,” Mr. Paul said.
Throughout Thursday evening, Republican lawmakers actively worked to get Mr. Hagerty in line behind the expedited pace. At one point, as many as 15 Republicans were seen lobbying the Tennessee freshman on the floor of the Senate.
The arguments focused not only on August recess, but also the merits of delaying a piece of legislation that everyone believed would eventually pass. To date, the infrastructure has received broad bipartisan support, enough to overcome the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold.
“Everybody understands that right behind this is going to be the budget,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican. “I don’t think anybody is looking to extend this out any longer than necessary.
Complicating matters is that a contingent of GOP lawmakers is scheduled to attend the funeral of the late Sen. Mike Enzi in Wyoming on Friday.
Those realities had both Democrats and Republicans eager to wrap up the process and move forward.
Mr. Hagerty, though, was not one of them. The senator, in particular, was irked by the willingness of colleagues to advance the 2,702-page infrastructure bill, despite Democrats readying to move a $3.5 trillion social spending package via party lines.
The bigger legislation, which Democrats have dubbed “human infrastructure,” contains a slew of liberal priorities, including new climate-change regulations and amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Since GOP support is unlikely, its only hope is via budget reconciliation, a process that allows spending bills to avert the 60-vote hurdle and pass by a simple majority of 51 votes.
“I could not, in good conscience, allow [the infrastructure bill to advance] at this hour — especially when the objective of the majority is to hurry up and pass this bill so that they can move quickly to their $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend spree designed to implement the Green New Deal and increase Americans’ dependence on the government so I objected,” Mr. Hagerty said.