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President’s Biden walked back comments that he would not sign an infrastructure bill without a second Democrat-backed proposal. That irked Republicans who threatened to derail the agreement.
President Biden had to walk back comments to clarify that he would not threaten to veto a bipartisan infrastructure proposal if it was not accompanied by a separate bill encompassing his domestic priorities.
While Republicans, who have not agreed to the domestic spending package, appeared to be satisfied with the clarification, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday urged Biden to convince the two top Democrats in Congress to delink the spending proposals as well. “The President has appropriately delinked a potential bipartisan infrastructure bill from the massive, unrelated tax-and-spend plans that Democrats want to pursue on a partisan basis,” McConnell said in a statement. “Now I am calling on President Biden to engage Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi and make sure they follow his lead.”
Biden’s walk-back “would be a hollow gesture” unless Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi make similar commitments to pass the bipartisan legislation even without the second Democrat-backed package, McConnell said.
On Thursday, Biden announced a deal on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal brokered by a bipartisan group of senators. While discussing the agreement, the president articulated the need for a second package of domestic infrastructure reforms that he had previously laid out in his American Families Plan proposal. If only the transportation infrastructure plan and not the domestic families plan was advanced by Congress, “I’m not signing it,” Biden said.
That led Biden to issue a lengthy statement over the weekend that walked back what Republicans deemed his veto threat of the transportation infrastructure deal.
Groups representing state and local governments are supportive of the infrastructure agreement, but have not weighed in on the dual track approach.
“We support the bipartisan framework and call on Congress to pass much needed infrastructure investments in a variety of sectors,” said Paul Guequierre, spokesman for the National Association of Counties.
The National Governors Association issued a statement emphasizing the bipartisan nature of infrastructure needs, and said the agreed-upon framework “recognizes the importance of federal partnership in investment.”
While a team of Democratic and Republican senators had worked together to hammer out the transportation infrastructure framework, Republicans have not agreed to spending in Biden’s American Families Plan, which includes investments in education, workforce development and child care.
“Our bipartisan agreement does not preclude Republicans from attempting to defeat my Families Plan,” Biden said in the statement issued over the weekend. “Likewise, they should have no objections to my devoted efforts to pass that Families Plan and other proposals in tandem.”
“The bottom line is this: I gave my word to support the Infrastructure Plan, and that’s what I intend to do,” Biden continued.
The president emphasized he would continue to pursue passage of his domestic infrastructure plan through the budget reconciliation process, which would require just 50 votes in the Senate and avoid a GOP filibuster.
Three Republican lawmakers who had worked on the transportation infrastructure agreement said they could move forward on the proposal after Biden clarified his remarks.
“We were all blindsided by the comments the previous day, which were that somehow these two bills were connected,” Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, told ABC News. “I'm glad they've now been delinked and it's very clear that we can move forward with a bipartisan bill.”
McConnell said during a press conference Monday that he hasn’t decided whether he will support the infrastructure package. He said he wants to see analysis from the Congressional Budget Office to understand if the proposal would be fully paid for through measures suggested by the bipartisan group.
Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.