Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was forced Friday to postpone the vote on the massive bipartisan Endless Frontier Act, which had been expected to easily breeze through the U.S. Senate, into the second week of June.
The legislation is meant as a U.S. counter to the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda and would fund more than $100 billion worth of research institutions in the United States. Republicans, however, began raising objections to the bill late into Thursday evening and early Friday morning and derailed what was supposed to be its smooth passage.
The delays began earlier on Thursday when four senators — Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — opposed proceedings on the bill for varying reasons. Rubio, for instance, was concerned the bill did not have sufficient safeguards to protect the research it would fund from falling into the hands of the very Chinese communists it is meant to counter, while Sanders took issue with a controversial provision in the proposal that he warned would amount to a “bailout” for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
As the clock neared 8:00 p.m. Thursday, Schumer was “trying to jam” final changes to the bill into an amendment, according to one Politico reporter. Hours later, as the final vote appeared less and less likely to happen Thursday night, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) emerged as a leader in raising new objections to the bill, which ensured it would be prolonged at least until Friday.
Johnson could be seen close to midnight arguing on the Senate floor, next to hundreds of pages of printed out legislation, that senators were not given adequate time to review amendments to the bill. Johnson was joined by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rick Scott (R-FL) in raising these concerns, but Commerce Committee chair Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) objected to them.
Republicans — including Johnson, Lee, Scott, and others — nevertheless used floor time well into Friday morning to debate the bill until Schumer ultimately caved and agreed to resume proceedings for voting on it after the Memorial Day recess, on June 8.
“I’m glad there’s bipartisan recognition that China’s a threat and that we must respond – but that response must be effective,” Johnson said in a statement after the GOP triumph. “I appreciate the fact the American public will now have some time to become aware of what’s in the bill, and I hope they let their senators know whether they think it’s worth the price tag.”
The unexpected contention over the Endless Frontier Act played out as the highly anticipated January 6 commission bill was looming in the background awaiting its own vote. That bill — designed to create a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6 U.S. Capitol riot — took the forefront Friday afternoon once the Endless Frontier Act was delayed.
Schumer announced somberly that the Senate, while it would vote on the China bill on June 8, would “get to vote” on the commission bill Friday afternoon “in the light of day, not at 3:00 a.m. in the morning.” He also used the moment to speak, as he had many times in the past, about “Donald Trump’s big lie” before pressing forward with the actual vote.
The January 6 commission bill, as expected, did not receive enough votes to avoid a filibuster. Despite it passing the House this month with the support of 35 Republicans, only six Republican senators voted in favor of it. After Senate Republicans blocked the commission bill, Schumer declared in a statement on social media that “Donald Trump’s Big Lie has now fully enveloped the Republican Party.”
The Senate, led by Schumer, devolving into disarray Thursday as normal proceedings began to unravel is evidence that there exists the possibility of problems to come for Biden’s legislative agenda as infrastructure negotiations remain ongoing between the two parties.
Write to Ashley Oliver at email@example.com.