The Slatest

Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Appears to Be Back on Track After Biden Walkback

President Joe Biden puts his arm on Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) as he speaks after the bipartisan group of Senators reached a deal on an infrastructure package at the White House on June 24, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden puts his arm on Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) as he speaks after the bipartisan group of Senators reached a deal on an infrastructure package at the White House on June 24, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

It was a stressful 48 hours for the White House but it seems the damage has been averted. On Sunday, it looked like the bipartisan deal on a plan to invest $1.2 trillion to rebuild the country’s infrastructure was ready to move forward once again. Moderate Republicans who were always at the heart of the deal said they were reassured by President Joe Biden reversing himself and saying he would sign the infrastructure package independent of what happens with a larger economic package that includes lots of Democratic priorities that many in the GOP oppose. “The waters have been calmed,” Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

The future of the infrastructure package was thrown into uncertainty Thursday, when Biden said he would only sign the measure if the other bill came to his desk as well. “If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Biden said on Thursday of the bipartisan infrastructure deal. “It’s in tandem.” Many read that as an implicit veto threat and the White House was left scrambling to salvage the agreement, ending with the president’s statement Saturday. “My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intent,” Biden said in a statement.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

The president’s words came as a relief to the Republican moderates who had been working with Democrats on the infrastructure plan. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said he and others who had been working on the plan were “blindsided” by Biden’s comments but are now ready to move forward. “I was very glad to see the president clarify his remarks because it was inconsistent with everything that we had been told all along the way,” Portman said in an interview with ABC’s This Week. “I’m glad they’ve now been de-linked and we can move forward with a bipartisan bill that is broadly popular not just among members of Congress but the American people.” Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana also expressed optimism on the bill and even said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could end up supporting the final bill. “If we can pull this off, I think Mitch will favor it,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I think leader McConnell will be for it, if it continues to come together as it is.”

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Democrats also sounded an optimistic note after Biden’s statement with Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, predicting that the measure will get the support from more than 10 Republicans, which is the minimum number needed assuming all Democrats support the bill. “I think we’ll get good support from both sides of the aisle. I think we’ll get far more than 60 votes,” Tester said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “In the end, we’ll get this through the Senate.”

Even if the immediate crisis has been averted, the last few days in Washington “underscored just how precarious a path the president and his allies face in the months ahead, as they try to steer the two separate and costly spending plans into law,” notes the New York Times. The Washington Post’s Dan Balz agrees, saying it “foreshadows for the rest of the summer … a period of intensive, legislative politicking.”

Advertisement