As Democratic leaders in the White House and on Capitol Hill grow impatient over infrastructure talks, there is a bipartisan blueprint that's been negotiated behind closed doors. The senators who've negotiated the plan haven't shared the proposal with the public, so the substantive details remain a mystery.
That doesn't necessarily mean it can pass with 60 votes. On the contrary, a few progressive senators have already indicated that the "compromise" infrastructure plan has been made so conservative to garner Republican support that they can no longer vote for it. This also suggests such a proposal would struggle in the Democratic-led House.
With this in mind, the entire process is moving forward on two parallel tracks.
Democrats set a timeline Tuesday to move ahead with a sweeping infrastructure and jobs bill that wouldn't require Republican support, making it clear that they believe a bipartisan deal wouldn't sufficiently deliver on President Joe Biden's top legislative priorities.
On the one hand, the mysterious bipartisan blueprint, which would need 60 votes to pass, continues to circulate among members on Capitol Hill. On the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has begun doing the legislative legwork to pass a better, more ambitious, and more progressive infrastructure plan through the budget reconciliation process, which would allow a bill to pass with 50 votes.
To that end, Schumer convened a meeting with Senate Budget Committee members yesterday, since it would be up to them to approve a new budget resolution -- the legislative vehicle that would make the reconciliation process possible.
"One track is bipartisan, and the second track pulls in other elements of Biden's American Job Plan and American Families Plan, which will be considered even if it doesn't have bipartisan support," Schumer said yesterday.
In effect, Democratic leaders have created a fail-safe: Senators will try to reach a bipartisan compromise, but if those efforts fall short, Democrats will still be able to meet the public's needs through a legislative alternative.
Evidently, such an approach isn't sitting well with some in the Republican minority.
Top Senate Republicans split over whether Democrats' pursuit of a party-line bill would damage prospects of a bipartisan deal. "It's a bad idea," said Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, a member of the Republican leadership. "That sends a signal that he really doesn't want to do a bipartisan bill. I think it just makes us upset."
It's a striking perspective. To hear the Iowa Republican tell it, Democrats may have the ability to pass their own legislation, even while pleading with the minority party to work on a compromise, but Democrats should close off that possibility because it hurts GOP senators' feelings.
Remind me: when was the last time Ernst's Senate Republican caucus based its legislative strategies on whether it might make Democrats "upset"?