A top Republican negotiator in the Senate signaled that his team would move forward on trying to pass a bipartisan infrastructure deal after President Joe Biden clarified his comments about potentially vetoing the measure.
“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,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told ABC News on Sunday.
Last week, Biden appeared alongside Portman and several Republican and Democrat senators announcing that they had come to an agreement on a $1.2 trillion deal. Hours later, Biden said at a news conference that the infrastructure bill would have to move “in tandem” with another measure known as the American Families Plan that has zero Republican support.
Biden told reporters about the bill: “If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it.”
That drew condemnation from some Republicans, who claimed he wasn’t serious about a bipartisan deal.
“No deal by extortion!” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wrote on Twitter. “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.”
Democrats had said they wanted to pass the American Families Plan, costing trillions of dollars, via the complex reconciliation process of budget legislation in a bid to bypass the GOP filibuster. Reconciliation only requires 50 votes and Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote.
But on Saturday, Biden clarified in a statement that with his remarks about a possible veto, it “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 … The bottom line is this: I gave my word to support the infrastructure plan and that is what I intend to do.”
Other lawmakers who were part of the months-long process in crafting a deal suggested they would again try to work to get the bill passed.
“I do take the president at his word,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said on CNN Sunday of Biden’s statement. Added Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.): “I didn’t understand the president to take that position.”
And Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told ABC he believed the proposal could reach the 60 votes required for the measure to become law. It’s not clear whether the measure would pass in the House of Representatives as some progressive Democrats have signaled opposition to the bill for not being expansive enough.
Of note, the pared-down version of the infrastructure bill would eliminate a controversial provision regarding affordable housing that would limit the construction of single-family housing. Some officials, including former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, said the now-eliminated measure would “eliminate local zoning, single-family zoning,” suggesting it would radically transform the American way of life.
“[P]eople spend a lifetime dreaming that they’re going to have a home with a plot of lawn around it,” McCaughey told Just the News over the weekend. “They can let their kids play on the lawn, go out and mow the lawn, it’s a way of life. And the Biden administration wants to eliminate that. Their message is, ‘You can’t have that unless everybody can have that.'”