McConnell Says He Needs to See How Infrastructure Deal Will Be ‘Credibly Paid For’ Before Backing

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
June 28, 2021 Updated: June 28, 2021

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Monday that he remains undecided on whether to back the bipartisan infrastructure plan due to concerns about how the measure will be paid for.

McConnell made the remarks at a press conference in Louisville, in response to a reporter asking whether he would support the $1.2 trillion package, which was hammered out last week by President Joe Biden and 10 senators—five from each party.

“I haven’t decided yet,” McConnell said, The Hill reports.

“We need to get a score, so we need to see whether the proposal is credibly paid for,” the Kentucky Republican added, referring to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) “scorekeeping” process of developing and recording measures of the likely budgetary impacts of proposed legislation.

McConnell noted that past efforts to pass infrastructure legislation have been mired in disputes over how the measure should be paid for.

The White House said in a statement on June 24, the day Biden announced that a bipartisan deal had been reached, that the proposed sources for new investment under the infrastructure plan include ramping up IRS enforcement to reduce the tax gap—the difference between taxes legally owed and actually collected—and repurposing unused funds from last year’s pandemic relief legislation.

Other proposed sources of funding, according to the White house, include selling off some strategic petroleum reserves, money from mid-band 5G spectrum auctions, and reinstating Superfund fees for chemicals.

McConnell also called for the infrastructure deal to be unlinked from other Democrat legislative proposals, after Biden threatened to veto the bill unless it arrives at his desk in tandem with other legislation the Democrats are pushing for, including the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan.

President Biden
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal at the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Biden drew the ire of Republicans when, hours after announcing the bipartisan agreement, he said he saw the bill as linked to other legislation, saying, “if only one comes to me, I’m not signing it. It’s in tandem.”

Several Republicans reacted to Biden’s veto ultimatum—which the president has since walked back—by suggesting they would refuse to back the bipartisan deal if it hinges on the adoption of other Democrat spending priorities.

“No deal by extortion!” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a tweet Friday. “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.”

Biden has since reversed his position, saying in a statement Saturday that what was widely interpreted as a “veto threat” was “certainly not my intent,” adding that, “I fully stand behind it without reservation or hesitation.” At the same time, Biden said he would continue to push for the adoption of the American Families Plan “in tandem” with the infrastructure deal, with its fate left up to Congress to decide.

In a statement on Monday, McConnell addressed a separate threat by Democrats to link the pieces of legislation, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) both said the American Families Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure bill were a package deal.

Pelosi said on Thursday that her chamber would not vote on the infrastructure package unless the Senate passes the second reconciliation bill, which includes spending on climate change, Medicare expansion, and more of the Democratic Party’s progressive priorities.

Schumer said on Wednesday that “One can’t be done without the other. … We can’t get the bipartisan bill done unless we’re sure of getting the budget reconciliation bill done,” according to The Hill.

McConnell, in his statement, called on Pelosi and Schumer to “walk-back their threats that they will refuse to send the president a bipartisan infrastructure bill unless they also separately pass trillions of dollars for unrelated tax hikes, wasteful spending, and Green New Deal socialism.”

At the press conference in Louisville, McConnell said he hopes the infrastructure deal will pass with bipartisan support, though he again emphasized the need to treat the bills individually.

“I’d like to see us get there, and I do think the only way we can get there is to de-link the two issues. They are really separate issues,” McConnell said.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'