Schumer Calls for Passage of Infrastructure Bill by End of October

By Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord is a Congressional reporter for The Epoch Times who focuses on the Democrats. He got his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Clemson University and was a scholar in the Lyceum Program.
October 4, 2021 Updated: October 4, 2021

After infighting again delayed votes on the Democratic budget and bipartisan infrastructure bills, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has set a new deadline goal: the end of October, when federal highway funding will run out.

Oct. 1 was the original deadline for highway funding. Both chambers of Congress quickly responded, with both the House and Senate passing a stopgap measure to continue funding for highways until the end of the month.

Democratic leaders in Congress originally believed they would have the Senate-approved $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which extends highway funding for five years, on the president’s desk and signed before the Oct. 1 deadline. However, that deadline passed with no vote because of continued divisions between moderate expectations and progressive demands.

‘Everybody Is Frustrated’

Initially, the bill, which was approved by the Senate with 69 votes in August, was set for a vote in early September. However, Democratic infighting delayed a vote on the bill to Sept. 27. Continued division pushed that vote off to Sept. 28. But by Sept. 29, the bill still didn’t have enough support to pass the lower chamber.

Even a rare visit to Congress by President Joe Biden couldn’t resolve the situation. During his visit to the Capitol, Biden reportedly admitted that the bill didn’t have enough votes to pass, despite a promise by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that the bill would have a vote that same day.

“Everybody is frustrated,” Biden told reporters outside the White House before departing for Wilmington, Delaware, for the weekend.

The situation has largely arisen from divisions between moderates and progressives.

Moderates are partial to the infrastructure measure and have demanded swift passage of the legislation without linking it to the more partisan $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. Progressives have demanded that the budget bill be passed before the infrastructure bill. Both have threatened to tank and are capable of tanking either bill.

Only a handful of Republicans have indicated that they’ll vote for the bill, and Republican and Democratic proponents of the bill would easily be overwhelmed by the progressive caucus’s 95-strong voting bloc.

In the Senate, the budget also doesn’t have enough votes. Two Democratic moderates, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have said repeatedly that they will not support a $3.5 trillion bill. Even as one deadline after another has passed, these two rebels have stuck to that promise.

With no resolution to these conflicts in sight, votes on both bills have been pushed off again.

Bills ‘Will and Must’ Pass in October

Pelosi and Schumer have picked a new deadline for the bills at the end of October. This new Oct. 31 deadline, nearly two months after both bills were due for a vote, is being emphasized as crucial by Democratic leaders.

After his meeting with the House, Biden told reporters, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s in six minutes, six days, or six weeks—we’re going to get it done.”

However, Democratic leaders in Congress have their sights set on four weeks at the most.

Pelosi said in a note to Democratic colleagues that they must pass the infrastructure bill before Oct. 31, adding that she didn’t allow a vote on the infrastructure bill because it would have failed.

“We will and must pass both bills soon,” Pelosi said.

“Negotiations will continue now, with more time for decisions, legislative language, Senate parliamentarian review, and public awareness,” she wrote.

Schumer in a statement dismissed the bills’ earlier failures, writing that “Doing big things in Congress is hard. Doing really big things all at once is really hard.” He added that leadership knew “from the very beginning” that passing the two bills would be “difficult and, at times, messy.”

But, he said, “[Democrats] can get this done, together, if we put aside our differences and find the common ground within our party.”

This “will require sacrifice,” he said, adding that “not every member will get what he or she wanted.”

Despite these divisions, Schumer said, “we will pass legislation that will dramatically improve the lives of the American people. I believe we are going to do just that in the month of October.”

Schumer emphasized the importance of this deadline, noting that highway funding would expire within the month.

“Our new legislative goal must be to enact [the infrastructure] bill and the Build Back Better [reconciliation] bill before the new [highway funding] expiration date at the end of October.”

A final agreement between the House, Senate, and President on the Build Back Better Act “as soon as possible” is “crucial,” Schumer said.

He added that such an agreement will be reached “preferably within a matter of days, not weeks.”

Zachary Steiber contributed to this report. 

Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord is a Congressional reporter for The Epoch Times who focuses on the Democrats. He got his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Clemson University and was a scholar in the Lyceum Program.