GOP senators warn they could pull support for Biden deal
Republican senators are warning that they could drop their support for a bipartisan infrastructure framework amid growing GOP fury over President Biden’s plan to link it to a Democratic-only bill.
GOP Sens. Jerry Moran (Kan.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both signaled on Friday that their support, and eventual vote, for the bipartisan infrastructure deal — announced at the White House just yesterday — is tenuous if Democrats insist it has to move in tandem with a larger Democratic-only infrastructure plan.
“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.
An aide for Moran separately told Bloomberg News that the GOP senator was wavering on supporting the bipartisan package and wants assurances from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) that they will oppose a reconciliation package that allows Democrats to pass a second, larger infrastructure bill on their own without GOP support.
A spokesperson for Moran didn’t immediately respond to a question about the comments.
The remarks underscore how rocky the footing is for the bipartisan infrastructure package just a day after the core group of 10 Senate negotiators and Biden announced outside the White House that they had reached an agreement. The group of senators is expected to talk by phone on Friday afternoon about the path forward.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a member of the core group of negotiations, told reporters on Thursday that Biden’s remarks had “turned everything upside down.”
“We thought we had a commitment from the president … but now he’s making that conditional,” Cassidy said.
Moran and Graham were not part of the group at the White House, but they were part of a larger group of 21 senators who have thrown their support behind the framework, including putting out a joint statement on Thursday after the White House meeting.
If Graham and Moran drop their support, that would knock the number of Republican senators supporting the framework down from 11 to nine, below the 10 Republicans needed in addition to every Democrat to defeat a 60-vote legislative filibuster.
It comes after Biden sparked broad anger among Republicans after he linked the timing of a bipartisan bill and the timing of a larger infrastructure package as he and congressional Democratic leadership faced pushback from progressives for moving the first without the other.
“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.
The move quickly prompted high-profile GOP pushback, with Republicans accusing Biden and congressional Democrats of holding the package “hostage.”
“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. It was a tale of two press conferences,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said from the Senate floor on Thursday.
Several Republicans, including McConnell, have previously acknowledged that Democrats were likely to try to pass another infrastructure bill under reconciliation if they could get their 50 members lined up. But some Republicans have also hoped that they could pass a smaller bipartisan deal and that it would divide Democrats on passing the second bill.
And Republicans have been fuming since Thursday over the idea that the bipartisan bill should be held up until Democrats have their separate, larger bill, which would encompass Biden’s $2.3 trillion jobs plan and a $1.8 trillion families plan, in hand.
Amid the GOP pushback, Biden spoke with Sinema, with the White House releasing an attention-getting readout of the call.
“The President reiterated strong support for both the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill and a reconciliation bill containing the American Families Plan moving forward on a two-track system, as he said yesterday when meeting the press with the bipartisan group of ten Senators. These are two critical priorities to the President that he wants to see advance through the legislative process as quickly as possible, pass as quickly as possible, and be presented to him for signing as quickly as possible,” the White House readout said.
Democrats, however, have also dismissed the criticism, arguing that they and Biden have been upfront about their plan to use a two-track system on infrastructure, with one track being the bipartisan talks and the second being a larger Democratic-only bill.
“Anyone who thinks that McConnell wasn’t planning to run this play as soon as there was a bipartisan deal doesn’t work in the Senate,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted.
–Updated at 3:48 p.m.