The White House is trying to shut down speculation that the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal is already “stuck in a pothole,” as one reporter put it, after President Joe Biden vowed not to sign it into law without a reconciliation bill funding some of his sweeping social welfare proposals.
“Absolutely not,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday when asked if the deal worked out with GOP senators is stalled or doomed.
Psaki acknowledged there was “work ahead” to draft a reconciliation measure financing “soft,” “human” infrastructure that will satisfy Democrats, while ensuring 10 Republicans continue to support the “hard,” “traditional” infrastructure agreement.
She was adamant that the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had been open about their intention to pass an infrastructure framework using a dual-track approach. But GOP lawmakers and aides have said the dual legislation approach is not what they agreed to during weeks of talks.
“That hasn't been a secret. He hasn't said it quietly. He hasn't even whispered it. He said it very much out loud to all of you,” Psaki said.
She added that voters did not care about how infrastructure investments were cleared by Congress, describing Republican complaints about being misled regarding the process as “a pretty absurd argument.” She said the White House was “confident” that five Republican senators, in addition to the five who stood beside Biden on Thursday for the deal's announcement, would continue backing the arrangement. Democrats need 10 Republicans to overcome filibuster hurdles in the Senate.
Biden called on Congress Thursday to consider the bipartisan “hard infrastructure” agreement “promptly” and “in tandem” with a reconciliation bill funding “soft” infrastructure, such as universal pre-kindergarten and free community college. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has already started negotiating a $6 trillion measure.
Biden's insistence that he would not sign the bipartisan framework without a reconciliation counterpart angered Republican senators, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Graham was one of 11 GOP senators to endorse the deal.
“If he’s gonna tie them together, he can forget it,” Graham said in an interview. “I’m not doing that. That’s extortion! I’m not going to do that. The Dems are being told, ‘You can’t get your bipartisan work product passed unless you sign on to what the left wants,' and I’m not playing that game.”
Psaki on Friday did not lay out a legislating timeline, saying the White House would leave those decisions up to its congressional allies.
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