Washington Correspondent Neil McCabe and the Factors of Chuck Schumer’s Invisible Infrastructure Bill
Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed The Tennessee Star National Correspondent Neil McCabe to the newsmaker line to talk about Schumer’s rush to pass a blank infrastructure bill while coaxing Republicans to get on board.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line by the very best Washington correspondent in the country. He represents The Star News Network, covering Washington, Neil McCabe. Neil, good morning.
McCabe: Good morning, Michael. Very good to be with you.
Leahy: So I think you called it. Now, Chuck Schumer has a bill. He’s calling it the infrastructure bill. Apparently, it is a blank sheet of paper.
And it’s $3.5 trillion of spending, something like that. What are the chances of that moving through the United States Senate or the rest of Congress?
McCabe: Well, it’s a very interesting gambit. Schumer is forcing senators to be working in Washington when they don’t want to be in Washington during the summer.
Frankly, no one wants to be in Washington during the summer. It was practically designed by the founders who knew when they put Washington in a swamp, the point was to keep people away because nobody would want to be there.
Roy Blunt, who is one of the 10 most rebellious of the senators working with Democrats on this infrastructure bill from Missouri, basically said that he doubts that this thing is going to move forward because the bill hasn’t been written, as you said.
Schumer is trying to get these Republicans who are negotiating with Democrats on an infrastructure bill to be on the record, moving it forward as a way of showing their good faith.
So why should we negotiate with you if you won’t move the bill forward? So McConnell at the luncheon that the Republicans have every week urged his colleagues to vote against it. And we’re going to set to see, I doubt that the Republicans are going to go against McConnell on this.
There’s a lot of pressure – both Republicans and Democrats – to basically hold the party line. If it’s a procedural vote. When it comes down to issues of agenda or policy, there’s a little bit more play there.
But you’re really supposed to maintain party discipline on a procedural vote, and that’s what the filibuster is. And I would also say that President Donald J. Trump has been really negative about McConnell lately.
And I think that actually strengthens McConnell’s hand inside the Republican Senate conference because the Republicans are going to want to show some unity and sort of support McConnell. McConnell’s name might be trash outside of Capitol Hill, but among senators, they’re routing to him.
Leahy: That’s a very interesting point. Now, these 10 I don’t know. You call them the weak-kneed Republicans who are trying to, “negotiate with a blank piece of paper” that had been presented to them by Chuck Schumer.
I know Blunt is not up for reelection. He said he’s retiring. Are any of the others going to face primary challenges on the Republican side if they partner with the Democrats?
McCabe: Well, that’s going to be a problem. It will also hurt their turnout – will also hurt their fundraising. So even if they don’t get a primary challenge, it’s not going to be the same enthusiasm.
But a guy like Blunt retiring, Portman’s retiring, Toomey’s retiring. Bird is retiring from North Carolina. When these guys are retiring, that’s almost when they’re the most dangerous, because not only are they trying to set themselves up for retirement, but now they’ve got dozens of aides and a lot of their senior aides.
And they got to set these guys up with lobbying gigs and whatnot. So there are different provisions hitting in these bills that their staffers are the experts on lobbying on.
And so that’s why the lame-duck session is so dangerous. So these guys are on their way out the door and they’re plotting their retirement and the retirement of their aides. So that’s their incentive.
Carmichael: Neil, let me ask you a question, though. In order for Schumer to be successful in the vote, he needs to get to 60 total, which means that 10 Republicans would have to side with the Democrats against the wishes of McConnell. And I think the likelihood of that is one in a billion.
McCabe: Well, the other problem is that everyone understands that this is both. After the filibuster, Schumer doesn’t need the Republicans anymore, because then the bill just needs a simple majority.
And then, of course, it goes to reconciliation. The Republicans will only have leverage before the filibuster. And that’s why Schumer is trying to get it out of the way.
And Schumer is racing against time. It’s like the legislative season is over, and he’s trying to get something done when everybody wants to be back home and time is running out. As time goes on, the Democrats are losing their grip on Capitol Hill because everyone knows the midterm is coming, and they know that Biden isn’t going to be able to bail them out.
I mean, you see what’s going on with inflation? There’s going to possibly be a six percent increase in Social Security. Forget the budget ramifications of that.
But that is confirmation that there is serious inflation out there. That’s the highest increase, I think, since like, 1975 or something. It’s crazy.
And people are talking about lumber and gas prices. But when you see a Social Security hike of six percent, that gets people’s attention, and people are going to start saying, wow, what’s going on with this Biden administration?
Certainly, he’s losing on crime. He’s losing on the border. And he’s kind of bouncing around. People are trying to say, well, what’s going on with this guy?
Carmichael: What time frame do we look at here? In other words, you’re going to have this vote or you’re not going to have this vote. What’s the drop-dead date for Schumer?
McCabe: Schumer votes today.
Carmichael: The vote is today?
McCabe: Schumer votes today.
Carmichael: If Schumer doesn’t get to 60 today, then it’s dead the water. Is that right?
McCabe: No. What the 60 votes means, he ends the debate. And that means they can have a vote on the floor for a simple majority.
So if they don’t end the debate now, they can end the debate tomorrow. You can keep trying to break the filibuster forever. And so Schumer is just trying to do it now because he wants to get people on the record.
And he’s trying to goose the process and basically say to the Republicans who are negotiating, there are a lot of Republicans that want high-speed rail.
They want 5G. They want bridges. They want highways. They want ports dredged. So there’s a lot of Republicans who want some of these goodies.
But if they want it, they got to go ahead with the filibuster. That’s what Schumer is trying to say. Why should we negotiate with you?
Because if you don’t want to negotiate with us, we’ll just go through the reconciliation process and we don’t need you. It’ll be a smaller bill, but you won’t get anything.
Carmichael: But if they vote to do away with the filibuster without knowing what’s in the bill, then they’ve lost their leverage anyway. Is that correct?
McCabe: If they end the filibuster, they have lost all of their leverage.
Leahy: So it just makes common sense not to cooperate with Schumer if you’re one of these retiring RHINO Republicans who, as you say, are very dangerous at that time.
Of course, sometimes common sense and some Republican senators are two things that don’t always go together.
McCabe: Schumer is not in a position of strength. The reason why he’s pushing it now is that he knows that there’s atrophy to his ability to get things done. And he needs action on things.
Pelosi doesn’t have a care in the world. She’s going up against Kevin McCarthy, and she just runs circles around him. But Schumer and McConnell is a “Clash of the Titans.”
Leahy: A clash of the Senate Titans. And on that note, Neil McCabe, thanks so much for joining us.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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