President Joe Biden toiled for months on bipartisan negotiations before saying “we have a deal” on a $1 trillion infrastructure package last week. But when the president explicitly linked that deal to a separate Democratic-only spending package, it looked in danger just a day later.
Biden walked back his comments over the weekend, reassuring many Republicans and saving the deal. But Mitch McConnell had a fresh demand on Monday.
On Monday morning, the Senate Minority Leader called on Biden to ensure Congressional Democrats follow his lead.
The Kentucky Republican released a statement saying Biden had “appropriately” reversed course from his comments on Thursday linking the two bills.
McConnell demanded Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should also “walk-back their threats” to only move the bipartisan agreement and a Democrat-only package side-by-side.
He added that Biden’s attempt to reassure the GOP “would be a hollow gesture” if Pelosi and Schumer didn’t adopt the same approach. “The President cannot let congressional Democrats hold a bipartisan bill hostage over a separate and partisan process,” he said.
The remarks are the latest salvo hitting the $1 trillion infrastructure deal only four days after it was tentatively forged between Biden and a centrist faction of Democratic and GOP senators. McConnell hasn’t explicitly said he either favors or opposes the plan, and he’s largely attacked it on procedural grounds so far.
But he’s attempting to ward off a separate plan that Democrats are poised to muscle through reconciliation, a strenuous legislative procedure allowing the Senate to clear budgetary bills on a simple majority vote. It will likely include tax hikes on wealthy Americans and corporations, along with spending on childcare, education, and healthcare.
McConnell’s opposition may potentially derail the package, as it could dampen support among Republicans for the deal.
On Saturday, Biden backed down from his threat to reject the package and said he had never meant to give that impression. “I gave my word to support the infrastructure plan, and that’s what I intend to do,” Biden said in a statement.
Still, Schumer and Pelosi have long said they are operating on two tracks: approving the bipartisan deal and the follow-up party-line package. Progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are pressing Democrats to not scale down their political and economic ambitions to secure GOP votes.
Pelosi on Thursday said “There ain’t gonna be no bipartisan bill, unless we are going to have the reconciliation bill.”
On Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed Republicans for walking back on a bipartisan infrastructure deal just a day after President Joe Biden said “we have a deal.”
On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez argued the senators had wasted time and negotiated “in bad faith.”
“Wow, 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,” the New York lawmaker wrote in a tweet.
The criticism came in response to news that one GOP senator was wavering in his support of the $1 trillion infrastructure agreement he had been part of negotiation with the White House, on the grounds that Biden was tying it to Democrats’ passage of another, larger spending package.
“It’s time to move forward, rebuild infrastructure and drawdown carbon, lower the age of Medicare and extend it to cover vision & dental, expand childcare and housing accessibility, and serve the American people,” Ocasio-Cortez continued in another tweet. “That is bipartisan too, with 2 party support among the electorate.”
“The diversity of this ‘bipartisan coalition’ pretty perfectly conveys which communities get centered and which get left behind when leaders prioritize bipartisan dealmaking over inclusive lawmaking (which prioritizes delivering the most impact possible for the most people),” the New York Democrat tweeted alongside a photo of the group of lawmakers with Biden on Thursday.
The bipartisan proposal includes funding for traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges as well as clean water, nationwide broadband, and improved public transit. It also aims to establish a nationwide network of 500,000 electric-vehicle charging stations.
The White House plans to offset the measure’s cost with repurposed unemployment-insurance funds, stricter IRS enforcement, and the purchase of unused toll credits. The corporate tax hike initially sought by the Biden administration wasn’t included in that deal.
Republicans beyond Moran seem mortified that Biden could pass a bipartisan deal while simultaneously passing a party-line bill that covers the rest of his proposals on infrastructure.
“It seems like the momentum in the Republican caucus is to abandon this deal,” Brian Riedl, a former Republican Senate aide who is now a budget expert at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, told Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig. “The fact they feel lied to and misled by the president gives them a pretty clear justification for pulling out.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina went further on Friday, telling Politico that “most Republicans could not have known” that Biden would tie the two bills together. “There’s no way. You look like a f—ing idiot now.”
President Joe Biden said on Thursday “we have a deal” in reference to a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, but major chunks of the Republican Party were icy about its prospects on Friday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham was perhaps among the most aggressive lawmakers denouncing it. On Friday, Politico reported that the South Carolina Republican would not back the plan. “No deal by extortion!” he tweeted.
The stumbling block is that Biden tied the deal’s final passage to a separate party-line bill that’s poised to contain many Democratic social priorities on education, healthcare, and childcare.
“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Biden said at the White House on Thursday, referring to the bipartisan package.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy seized on exactly those remarks on Friday to explain his opposition. “It’s one big deal. It’s not separated,” the California Republican said. “I just don’t see any Republican supporting that structure.”
Key Senate Republicans also signaled their opposition. Sen. Jerry Moran, one of the 10 Republicans who signed onto the deal with Biden, showed signs of wavering on the framework given the president’s commitment to secure approval of a separate reconciliation bill, Bloomberg reported.
Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, another of the Republican negotiators, told reporters on Thursday he was “a little blindsided” by Biden’s pledge to only approve the bipartisan plan only if a party-line package reached his desk.
Other Republicans who forged the deal, like Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio or Susan Collins of Maine, have refrained from commenting publicly so far. But there are signs that the GOP could ultimately ditch the plan.
“I can’t imagine Senate Republicans agreeing to a deal that Democrats are going to rip up before the ink is dry,” Brian Riedl, a former Portman aide, told Insider.
“It seems like the momentum in the Republican caucus is to abandon this deal,” said Riedl, now a budget expert at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute. “The fact they feel lied to and misled by the president gives them a pretty clear justification for pulling out. This isn’t a matter of ‘we got cold feet and changed our minds,’ it’s that the president changed the deal after we got an agreement.”
The $1 trillion infrastructure deal was focused on physical infrastructure like roads, bridges, broadband, and water projects. But it omitted many Democratic priorities like tax hikes on corporations and in-home elder care.
Still, some Republicans had floated striking a bipartisan deal in a bid to kill a Democrat-only package. “I think a value that could come from this is the reduced pressure of justification that Democrats may feel,” Moran said earlier this month. “If we do nothing, those that want to change the rules or use reconciliation have a stronger case to make.”
Some other Republicans may be responding to a separate Lindsey Graham quote, summing up his feelings about how the negotiations with Biden turned out: “Most Republicans could not have known” that Biden would tie the two bills together, Graham told Politico. “There’s no way. You look like a f—ing idiot now.”
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is poised to play a critical role in President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.
The influential Democratic centrist nearly derailed passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package when he pressed for a last-minute cut to federal unemployment benefits. It sent Democrats scrambling to secure his support for 12 hours – they eventually agreed to a reduction.
With Democrats essentially needing to pass major legislation via reconciliation – which requires all 50 members of the parties to vote in favor – Manchin remains the swing vote on infrastructure.
Manchin now holds major sway in ongoing bipartisan infrastructure negotiations. He’s pushing both parties to strike a deal over the objection of fellow Democrats and progressives who view the talks as alternately a waste of time or something that could produce a significantly watered-down bill.
On Tuesday, Manchin opened the door to a Democrat-only package. He’s largely held back from offering policy specifics, but here’s an overview of what Manchin seeks from a new economic spending bill:
On Tuesday, Manchin offered some of his clearest rationale yet behind why he wants to raise corporate taxes in an interview with NBC News:
“Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on not changing anything, and I thought the 2017 tax bill was a very unfair bill, and weighted to a side that basically did not benefit the average American. So I voted against it. I think there are some adjustments that need to be made.”
Manchin chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which The Hill first reported is slated to mark up a 423-page legislative draft aimed at strengthening the nation’s energy infrastructure on Thursday. It contains provisions to boost electric grid resiliency as well as the energy efficiency of housing and commercial buildings.
It remains unclear how much of Biden’s education, healthcare, and childcare initiatives Manchin will ultimately embrace. His office declined to comment earlier this month on whether the West Virginia senator supported the permanent expansion of the child tax credit.
But the Democrats’ pivotal swing vote looks like he may be ready to make a deal.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York assailed the crawling pace of negotiations with Republicans on Wednesday, arguing Democrats are wasting time on the legislative calendar.
“Dems are burning precious time & impact negotiating w/GOP who won’t even vote for a Jan 6 commission,” she wrote on Twitter. “McConnell’s plan is to run out the clock. It’s a hustle. We need to move now.”
She also cited the futile experience Democrats had negotiating the Affordable Care Act with Republicans over a decade ago. They eventually passed it without Republican backing.
The New York congresswoman also strongly criticized the idea of Democrats “playing patty cake” with Senate Republicans in an earlier tweet, saying the current array of economic, political, and climate challenges facing the country demanded urgent action.
It comes as Biden recalibrates his approach a day after pulling the plug on negotiations with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the chief Republican negotiator on infrastructure. Both sides failed to strike a deal with sharp disagreements on the size of a package and how to finance it.
Now, another bipartisan group led by Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mitt Romney of Utah is poised to take the lead. Romney, along with Sen. Bill Cassidy, told Insider on Tuesday that the group of 10 senators was eyeing repurposing stimulus aid to states to finance infrastructure spending. Biden has already rejected that approach.
Romney on Wednesday ruled out tax hikes in the emerging plan. Tax increases on large firms, wealthy investors, and other high-earning Americans have constituted a core part of Biden’s economic spending plans.
Four Senate Democrats who lean moderate also expressed heightened concern that climate provisions were at risk of being left out in any infrastructure package. Biden’s two-part plans include setting up electric-vehicle-charging stations across the country.
“An infrastructure package that goes light on climate and clean energy should not count on every Democratic vote,” Sen. Martin Heinrich tweeted on Wednesday.
After nearly six weeks of back and forth between President Joe Biden and West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito on infrastructure, Biden ended the negotiations on Tuesday after failing to come to an agreement.
Capito said in a Fox News interview on Wednesday that the White House “kept moving the goalposts” on the Republican group, and she was “frustrated” with how things turned out.
“I’m a bit disappointed and frustrated that the White House kept moving the ball on me and then finally just brought me negotiations that were untenable and then ended the negotiations altogether,” Capito said. It’s unclear exactly what Capito was referring to, but the public statements from both sides indicate the White House kept coming down on the cost of the package and the GOP was inflexible.
There seemed to be disappointment on both sides. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Tuesday that Biden was disappointed that “while he was willing to reduce his plan by more than $1 trillion, the Republican group had increased their proposed new investments by only $150 billion.”
Capito and the group of Republicans first brought Biden a $568 billion infrastructure offer, which was significantly smaller than the $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan he proposed. He then offered the group $1.7 trillion, and even suggested going as low as $1 trillion, but the GOP only came back to him with a $928 billion offer, which included only $150 billion in new spending.
Since unveiling his plan, Biden has kept saying he’s committed to a bipartisan agreement, as seen with his willingness to come down on cost to get both sides of the aisle on board. For instance, after his talks with Capito collapsed, he reached out to some members of a new bipartisan group about another infrastructure proposal. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, a member of that group, has already said that tax increases are out of the question.
Using corporate tax hikes to fund his plan is one of the things Biden has remained firm on, but the GOP group never budged on the possibility of doing so, calling it a “red line” and suggesting repurposing unused stimulus funds instead.
“The pay-fors that they brought to me the final time were many taxes,” Capito said. “We had told them before we could do this without raising taxes and we gave them great opportunity to look at our pay-fors and how we would pay for this. I think when they brought the tax hikes before me the last time when I was in the Oval Office I knew they weren’t really serious at that point.”
Given that tax hikes are a core component of Biden’s plan, the likelihood of reaching a bipartisan agreement is slim, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a press briefing on Tuesday that Democrats are preparing to use reconciliation, meaning passing a bill without any GOP votes.
“We all know as a caucus we will not be able to do all the things that the country needs in a totally bipartisan way,” Schumer said. “So at the same time, we are pursuing the pursuit of reconciliation.”
With negotiations on a major infrastructure package likely to stretch into June, the White House is poised to blow past its self-imposed Memorial Day deadline, which was meant to ensure significant progress on a bipartisan plan.
Senate Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) are preparing to make a $1 trillion offer as soon as Thursday. Another bipartisan group of six senators that includes Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.) are preparing another offer to President Joe Biden in case those talks stall.
Manchin is insisting on more time to secure a deal, saying on Tuesday “this is the long game, not a short game.” The White House want to approve a multi-trillion spending package to upgrade roads and bridges, in addition to setting up universal pre-K, tuition-free community college, and cash payments to families.
But some Democrats doubt Republicans’ genuine interest in giving Biden a bipartisan victory and are wary of the ongoing talks turning into a time-consuming dud. They cite huge differences that remain to be bridged on the size, scope, and basic definition of infrastructure. Democrats are anxious to shepherd along new economic programs using their thin majorities in the House and evenly divided Senate.
Their potential to drag into the summer is prompting comparisons to negotiations over a decade ago between President Barack Obama and Republicans on overhauling the healthcare system.
“When I read the comments from Sen. Manchin asking for more time, all of a sudden I had bad flashbacks to Obamacare where there was a push and pull between the desire for more time and the reality that Republicans were never going for it,” Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), told Insider.
Max Baucus, a former Democratic senator and one of the architects of Obamacare, said in an interview he was getting “somewhat” a case of déjà vu seeing the infrastructure discussions unfold.
“I’d keep pushing forward as hard as I could, but there’s not much time left. I’d give it a month or so and then tell Schumer to push reconciliation,” the former Montana lawmaker said, referring to a legislative tactic available to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to approve some bills with only a simple Senate majority.
“I doubt you’re going to see much bipartisanship in the end”
In 2009, the Obama administration chased support from a bloc of moderate GOP senators for the plan that became the Affordable Care Act. As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus spent five months trying to draw backing from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the panel, for a more “durable” health law.
That effort collapsed amid sharp disagreements on tax increases and whether Americans should be obligated to buy health insurance. Republicans stepped up their attacks and cast the healthcare bill as federal overreach, with Grassley falsely warning of the government “pulling the plug on grandma” at an Iowa town hall that August.
Anger over how voters perceived Obamacare contributed to major Republican victories in the 2010 midterms, one that lost the House for Democrats and effectively crippled the next six years of Obama’s legislative agenda. Now, Baucus sees his experience as a cautionary tale as Democrats attempt to forge ahead with a massive two-part package to reconfigure the economy with new spending on physical infrastructure, healthcare, and education.
“I doubt you’re going to see much bipartisanship in the end. Frankly, a lot of Republicans would rather not see a bipartisan bill,” Baucus told Insider. “They say they would, but deep down they don’t.”
Baucus said he believes next year’s midterms are already factoring into the negotiations, in the sense that a party-line reconciliation bill from Democrats would almost surely include tax hikes on the wealthy and large firms, and a lot of Republicans “are going to run against those tax increases in 2022.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in an interview he was “very concerned” about Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s endgame on infrastructure, pointing to his recent comment about being “100% focused” on thwarting the Biden administration. The GOP leader also made similar remarks early on in the Obama administration.
“I’m always going to try and get a bipartisan approach, but it’s certainly a bigger lift after a statement like that,” he said.
Yet other Democrats like Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said they weren’t troubled by the state of the discussions. “I think we’re on the timeframe that I always thought we’d be on,” he told Insider. “Thus far, it’s soliciting their opinions.”
Kaine continued: “Even if we go reconciliation, we will put things in that bill that will be extremely attractive to Republican governors, to Republican mayors, to Republican interest groups.” He said he thought it was possible for Democrats to “pick up votes we weren’t expecting.”
The White House used reconciliation to approve a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill in March. Biden met with Senate Republicans once in early February in a bid to broker a deal. But he ultimately abandoned those talks by the end of the month after they only put $618 billion on the table. No GOP lawmakers voted for the Biden stimulus law.
There are signs that Democratic leaders are loathe to avoid watering down bills for the veneer of bipartisanship. “Look at 200 where we spent a year and a half trying to get something good done, ACA, Obamacare, and we didn’t do all the other things that had to be done,” Schumer said on MSNBC in late January. “We will not repeat that mistake.”
Schumer told reporters on Tuesday that Democrats will move ahead with a “big bold plan” in July, suggesting reconciliation looms in the near future. Still, Capito said her GOP group would “not walk away” from the negotiating table anytime soon.
“I think you go as far as you can, but then there comes a time where the other side is just not seemingly negotiating in good faith, so you gotta stop and pass your own bill,” said Baucus.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia suggested he could derail Democratic attempts to circumvent Republicans more than once this year, arguing that embarking on the path would be harmful to the nation’s future.
Manchin said that drafting bills was “never supposed to be easy,” adding it was important to address the needs of both rural areas and urban communities in the months ahead.
“I simply do not believe budget reconciliation should replace regular order in the Senate,” Manchin wrote. “How is that good for the future of this nation?”
Manchin was referring to a tactic Democrats employed earlier this year to approve a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package without securing any Republican votes. It comes as a top Senate official delivered a ruling on Monday that may provide Democrats an opening to bypass the GOP at least twice more this year.
Reconciliation is governed with a strict set of rules aimed at ensuring measures are closely related to the federal budget. Using it allows Democrats to pass bills with a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate and avoid the usual 60-vote threshold.
The White House is starting to sell its $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes major funding for roads and bridges, broadband, and in-home elder care among other measures.
The Biden administration outlined a corporate tax plan on Wednesday. It includes a corporate tax increase from 21% to 28%, a step amounting to a partial repeal of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts. Republicans are staunchly opposed to the business tax hikes.
That proposed tax increase recently triggered opposition from Manchin, who said last week he favored a 25% corporate rate instead. The opposition of a single Democratic senator could block the entire passage from clearing the upper chamber.
The dynamic makes Manchin a powerful figure in the Senate. Last month, he forced last-minute changes to unemployment provisions of the stimulus law, delaying votes for almost 11 hours.
Biden said on Wednesday he was open to compromise on a lower rate, though he stressed the need to pay for the plan. “I’m wide open, but we got to pay for this. I am willing to negotiate that,” he said.
The White House said on Tuesday that it is aiming to get President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package approved within months, an ambitious timeline that underscores the administration’s desire to quickly muscle a plan through Congress.
“We’d like to see progress by May and certainly a package through by the summer,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a daily news conference.
“At the end of the day, the president’s red line is inaction,” she said. “He won’t tolerate inaction on rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, something that has long been outdated. He believes we need to invest in that so we can improve the lives of ordinary Americans and make it easier to do business.”
The timeline lines up with what Democrats in Congress recently outlined. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that Democrats aimed to formally assemble the package in early May.
“We look forward to writing a bill, maybe much of it in the first week of May for the infrastructure piece of it. And we’ll see when the Senate then will act upon those proposals,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference on Thursday.
The speaker of the House later added that Democrats would only advance the measure once they have “the best possible bill,” a step that gives them some room to adjust. Pelosi told House Democrats on a caucus call last week she wanted to approve a bill by July 4, though she conceded it could slip to the end of the month, according to a senior Democratic aide.
Some Democrats have eyed September as a possible deadline for action, given the need for Congress to renew a highway funding bill by then.
Biden unveiled a large $2 trillion plan last week, the first of two proposals aimed at modernizing the nation’s infrastructure. The plan contained new funds to repair aging roads and bridges, eliminate lead pipes from water systems, and set up new rural broadband networks.
It also included money to support in-home care of elderly Americans to upgrade the nation’s electric grid and steadily phase out fossil fuels to combat climate change.
The second proposal, with major spending on childcare and education, is set to be released later this month. The pair of plans will form the centerpiece of Biden’s economic agenda.
However, the package has also set off substantial GOP opposition for its large scope and proposed tax increases on multinational corporations. Republicans are also critical of the swift timeline from Democrats in recent weeks.
That opposition, however, isn’t confined to Republicans. At least two Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia, say major elements of Biden’s plan should be adjusted to gain their votes. Manchin said he wanted a smaller corporate tax hike from 21% to 25% instead – not the 28% rate Biden is seeking.
On Monday evening, a top Senate official ruled that Democrats could revisit an earlier budget resolution used for the $1.9 trillion stimulus package to approve another bill without Republican support. That potentially opens the door for them to implement at least two more tax-and-spending measures this year on party-line votes, which could mean they won’t need any Republican votes at all for Biden’s next signature pieces of legislation.
One of them is Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia who has already proven himself to be an outsized presence in the razor-thin Democratic majority. He was also a pivotal voice against the inclusion of a $15 minimum wage in the American Rescue Plan.
Now, he’s expressed his concerns with the infrastructure package. In an interview with Talkline, a West Virginia radio show, Manchin said that, “as the bill exists today, it needs to be changed.”
Regarding Biden’s proposed increase of the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, Manchin indicated that he doesn’t support the 28% figure and stressed that the international average is a few percentage points lower. The rate “should have never been under 25%,” he said. “That’s the worldwide average. And that’s what basically every corporation would have told you was fair.”
When asked if he would not support a bill that raises the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, Manchin said: “Well, the bill basically is not going to end up that way”
Manchin also said the bill wouldn’t be passed by reconciliation “unless we vote to get on it.” When radio host Hoppy Kercheval said “they” could pass the bill by reconciliation.
“No, they can’t. Not unless we vote to get on it,” Manchin said in response. “And if I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere.”
Meanwhile, in a briefing on Monday, Biden said he was “not at all” worried that raising that rate would drive corporations to different countries. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also argued in support of a global minimum tax rate today.
As Politico reports, Manchin isn’t alone: Another Democratic senator, Mark Warner of Virginia, has also expressed concerns.
“I’ve had some outreach from the White House, but it was more heads-up than input into the development of the package,” he said, according to Politico. “So I’ve already expressed some concerns.”
Getting Democrats on board with the infrastructure package will be key to its passage, as Senate Minority Mitch McConnell has already said that it won’t get any GOP votes in the Senate. That means Democrats will likely have to compromise internally amongst themselves,