Republicans slam Biden's condition on bipartisan infrastructure deal, risking loss of GOP supporters
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden's bipartisan infrastructure deal risked losing Republican supporters Friday just one day after an agreement was reached as GOP senators accused the president of blindsiding them with a major condition.
After he announced the deal Thursday, Biden said he would only sign the $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal into law if Congress also passes a multi-trillion-dollar package focused on "human infrastructure" programs like subsidized child care, home caregiving and climate change that only Democrats support.
"If they don't (both) come, I'm not signing it. Real simple," Biden said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of 11 Republican senators who negotiated with the White House and endorsed the bipartisan plan, called that caveat "extortion" in a tweet Friday.
"No deal by extortion!" he wrote. "It was never suggested to me during these negotiations that President Biden was holding hostage the bipartisan infrastructure proposal unless a liberal reconciliation package was also passed."
He added: "I can't imagine other Republicans had that impression."
Bloomberg reported Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., may be having second thoughts on whether to support the bipartisan deal and wanted assurances that moderate Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, and Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, would vote against the "human infrastructure" package. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., another Republican who was part of infrastructure negotiations, expressed frustration as well.
“I cannot control what Democrats do," he said on Fox News. "So I think we’ve made progress, even if Majority Leader Schumer decides to proceed with another reconciliation bill.”
The $1.2 trillion bipartisan deal includes $579 billion in new spending over eight years, focusing only on physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, rail, broadband internet, water and sewer pipes, and electric vehicles.
But Biden made clear he's pursuing a "dual-track" strategy – and that two bills are effectively tied together. In tandem, he said Congress must pass legislation on "human infrastructure" that is opposed by Republicans and pushed by liberals. To pass this second bill, he will have to rely on a legislative maneuver called reconciliation that would allow Democrats to approve it with a simple majority in the 50-50 Senate.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back at the surprised reactions of Republicans, saying, "You all have heard him say multiple times publicly that he wanted to move these bills forward in parallel paths."
"That hasn't been a secret," she said. "He hasn't said it quietly. He hasn't even whispered it. He's said it very much out loud."
She added voters "elected (Biden) to not lead on process but to get things done" and that he "looks forward to signing both pieces of legislation." She said Republicans will have to decide whether they're going to vote against an "historic investment of infrastructure" because they disagree with the "mechanics of the process."
"That's a pretty absurd argument for them to make. Good luck on the PR strategy," Psaki said.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., accused Republicans of "fake outrage."
"They knew there were two tracks. Why? Because Democrats have said it over and over. Most loudly in the middle of the bipartisan negotiation," he said on Twitter.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York accused Republicans of negotiating "in bad faith."
"Wow," she said on Twitter, "who could have possibly predicted that Senate Republicans were wasting months of a Dem majority’s precious time negotiating in bad faith just to suddenly renege on a bipartisan agreement w/ new, mercurial demands after doing exactly the same w the Jan 6th commission."
Republican leaders in both the Senate and House blasted Biden's two-track strategy, previewing their strategy to try to convince moderate Republicans against backing Biden's infrastructure deal.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., “pulled the rug out from under their bipartisan negotiators."
“Less than two hours after publicly commending our colleagues and actually endorsing the bipartisan agreement, the president took the extraordinary step of threatening to veto it,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon. “It almost makes your head spin: an expression of bipartisanship and then an ultimatum on behalf of your left-wing base.”
The bipartisan agreement proposes $312 billion for transportation, including $109 billion for repairs to roads and bridges, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, $49 billion for public transit and $25 billion for airports. The compromise also includes $73 billion for electric and power infrastructure, $65 billion for broadband expansion and $55 billion for water and sewer projects.
To pay for infrastructure, senators and Biden agreed to more than a dozen funding sources led by strengthening the Internal Revenue Service to enforce tax collections.
The White House said Biden spoke to Sinema on Friday and "reiterated strong support" for "moving forward on a two-track system." Psaki said Biden would be "engaging directly with members of both parties" about the infrastructure bill when asked whether Biden planned to reach out to upset Republican senators.
Schumer and Pelosi said they hope to pass both pieces of legislation in July.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.