Biden: ‘Not my intent’ to imply veto for bipartisan infrastructure package
President Biden on Saturday sought to clarify remarks that he made earlier this week regarding a bipartisan deal and a potential, larger reconciliation package on infrastructure amid backlash from both progressive and Republican lawmakers.
Biden had said on Thursday that he would not sign a bipartisan deal on infrastructure unless a larger reconciliation deal was passed through the Senate, but on Saturday he attempted to walk back some of those remarks.
“At a press conference after announcing the bipartisan agreement, I indicated that I would refuse to sign the infrastructure bill if it was sent to me without my Families Plan and other priorities, including clean energy,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House Saturday afternoon.
“That statement understandably upset some Republicans, who do not see the two plans as linked; they are hoping to defeat my Families Plan—and do not want their support for the infrastructure plan to be seen as aiding passage of the Families Plan.
“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,” he added.
Biden announced on Thursday that he and a bipartisan group of moderate senators had reached a deal on infrastructure that totaled about $1.2 trillion over 8 years. The deal did not include some of Biden’s most pressing priorities, including provisions in his American Families plan and clean energy measures.
The president announced the deal in front of the White House surrounded by the lawmakers including Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), among others.
However, during a press conference later in the day, the president indicated that he would not sign the bipartisan deal unless a reconciliation bill came “in tandem.”
“I expect that in the coming months this summer, before the fiscal year is over, that we will have voted on this bill, the infrastructure bill, as well as voted on the budget resolution. But if only one comes to me, this is the only one that comes to me, I’m not signing it. It’s in tandem,” Biden told reporters at the White House later Thursday.
Biden’s actions during the day sparked pushback from both progressive Democrats, who felt the deal was too narrowly focused, and from Republicans who balked at the idea of another package pushed through reconciliation on top the bipartisan bill.
Some progressives threatened not to support the bill unless Biden passed a separate reconciliation bill through the Senate, which would only need the support of 50 Democratic senators.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said earlier this week that he was “not voting for a bipartisan package unless I know what is in reconciliation.”
Those comments were echoed by Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as he said that a bipartisan deal would not move forward unless they had a “firm, absolute agreement” on a reconciliation bill.
Responding to disgruntled Democrats in his statement Saturday, Biden said, “Some other Democrats have said they might oppose the Infrastructure Plan because it omits items they think are important: that is a mistake, in my view.
Several Republicans have already signaled that they were against a reconciliation bill fast-tracked by Senate Democrats, especially after some had signaled openness to the bipartisan proposal.
On Thursday, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told reporters the president’s comments had “turned everything upside down.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also signaled that he was upset at the president’s comments.
“No deal by extortion! 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,” Graham tweeted on Friday.
Responding to Republicans, Biden said Saturday, “Some Republicans now say that they might oppose the infrastructure plan because I am also trying to pass the American Families Plan: that is also a mistake, in my view.”
The president concluded by reiterating that he still intended to support the bipartisan deal.
“The bottom line is this: I gave my word to support the Infrastructure Plan, and that’s what I intend to do. I intend to pursue the passage of that plan, which Democrats and Republicans agreed to on Thursday, with vigor,” Biden said. “It would be good for the economy, good for our country, good for our people. I fully stand behind it without reservation or hesitation.”
However, Biden signaled that he planned to pursue both plans.
“I will ask Leader Schumer to schedule both the infrastructure plan and the reconciliation bill for action in the Senate. I expect both to go to the House, where I will work with Speaker Pelosi on the path forward after Senate action. Ultimately, I am confident that Congress will get both to my desk, so I can sign each bill promptly,” Biden said, referring to Democratic congressional leadership.
Updated 6:10 p.m.