Several Republican senators raised fresh doubts Wednesday that enough of them would join Democrats in breaking a filibuster of the Endless Frontiers Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at boosting US competitiveness with China that faces a key procedural vote Thursday.
Their comments came after a GOP lunch where there was a “robust conversation” over concerns Republicans have not gotten enough votes on their amendments as they try to reshape the bill. They also contradict comments from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who earlier Wednesday said “pretty good progress” had been made on amendments.
Republicans complained that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats were blocking their amendments despite pledges of an open amendment process.
“There is a general sense that we are going to stick together and demand an open process like Sen. Schumer promised,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas.
GOP Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, who was the one who described the “robust conversation” in the policy lunch, said that going into it he expected at least 10 Republicans would vote to advance it and give the Democrats the 60 votes they need.
“But after our discussion today, I would say it’s doubtful,” he said. “I think most in the room are opposed to it, which is why I think it is going to have trouble getting the 10 votes.”
North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr said he didn’t know if Democrats would get the necessary votes: “This has not been an open amendment process. The (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee hasn’t had an amendment and we probably have primary jurisdiction.”
One Republican who said he would vote to advance the bill was GOP Sen. Todd Young of Indiana who was a primary backer and co-author with Schumer of big parts of the bill.
A top Senate Republican aide acknowledged the ground was shifting constantly under the bill and didn’t know if it wound be fatal or if in the end at least 10 Republicans would vote for the bill, which Democrats have touted as a bipartisan triumph.
Earlier this year, Democrats had hoped that a significant bipartisan agreement to confront China on multiple fronts could help the Biden administration restore fractured relationships with Republicans in Congress who felt slighted by Democrats’ rapid pursuit of a coronavirus relief in the first days of Biden’s presidency.