GOP senators say Biden’s infrastructure deal back on track
Washington – Three Republican senators said President Joe Biden’s assurance that he isn’t linking a bipartisan $579 billion infrastructure plan to a larger tax and spending bill will allow negotiations to move ahead.
Rob Portman, a lead infrastructure negotiator for Republicans, said he “was very glad to see the president clarify” remarks he made Friday, which Republicans took as a threat to veto the infrastructure bill by connecting it with the bigger legislation that the GOP opposes.
“It was a surprise, to say the least, that those two got linked,” the Ohio Republican said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “And I’m glad they’ve now been de-linked and it’s very clear that we can go forward with a bipartisan bill that’s broadly popular, not just among members of Congress, but the American people.”
The president and a bipartisan group of senators presented the agreement on new infrastructure spending on Thursday. Biden suggested after the deal was struck that his signature on any infrastructure bill was contingent on Congress also passing the much larger tax and social-spending measure that Democrats are preparing.
On Saturday, he issued a statement saying it “was certainly not my intent” to create the impression he was threatening to veto “the very plan I had just agreed to.”
Mitt Romney, also among a group of GOP senators who announced the infrastructure deal with Biden at the White House on Thursday, said he was concerned about the president’s earlier comments but thinks “the waters have been calmed by what he said on Saturday.”
“I do trust the president,” Romney, a Utah Republican, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “At the same time I recognize that he and his Democratic colleagues want more than that.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican who’s in the bipartisan group, said “I’ll continue to work for the bill.” Asked whether on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether he expects Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to try to sink the bipartisan plan, he said: “If we can pull this off, I think Mitch will favor it.”
Biden plans to begin traveling the country on Tuesday to promote the bipartisan deal, with his first stop in Wisconsin, a White House official said. The goal is to build public support not only for the deal but for the social spending and tax increases Democrats hope to include in the second piece of legislation, which would include elements of his American Families Plan.
While seeking Republican support for infrastructure spending focused on transportation and broadband, Biden faces pressure from progressive Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for a separate package that would expand funding for programs such as child care and fighting climate change and raise corporate taxes.
Ocasio-Cortez suggested that Biden can’t afford to ignore House Democrats, including progressives.
“We’re here to make sure that he is successful and making sure that we do have a larger infrastructure plan,” she said on NBC.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the House wouldn’t pass the infrastructure plan without the multitrillion follow-on tax and social spending package. It remains to be seen if this exercise of leverage, absent a Biden veto threat, is enough for progressive Democrats.
Biden adviser Cedric Richmond said on CNN he expects both tracks will ultimately succeed.
“We expect to get two bills to the president’s desk so that he can sign both of them,” he said.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat whose vote is critical in a Senate that’s divided 50-50, said he expects both pieces of legislation to proceed side-by-side.
“We have two tracks,” he said on ABC. “And that’s exactly what I believe is going to happen. We’ve worked on the one track and we are going to work on the second track. There is an awful lot of need.”
Manchin said that any Democrats-only bill would have to be fully offset to get his vote. He declined to say how much spending he’d support, saying the amount should be determined by how much revenue can be raised from tax increases on businesses and the wealthy.“I’d never thought that the net corporate tax should be 21%. I always felt that 25 was very fair and balanced,” he said. “I think that capital gains ought to be at 28%, not at 21. There are changes we can make that still keep us competitive.”