Biden Extols Infrastructure Deal 06/25 06:08
President Joe Biden has announced a hard-earned bipartisan agreement on a
pared-down infrastructure plan that would make a start on his top legislative
priority and validate his efforts to reach across the political aisle.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden has announced a hard-earned
bipartisan agreement on a pared-down infrastructure plan that would make a
start on his top legislative priority and validate his efforts to reach across
the political aisle.
But he openly acknowledged Thursday that Democrats will likely have to
tackle much of the rest on their own.
The bill's price tag at $973 billion over five years, or $1.2 trillion over
eight years, is a scaled-back but still significant piece of Biden's broader
It includes more than a half-trillion dollars in new spending and could open
the door to the president's more sweeping $4 trillion proposals for child care
and what the White House calls human infrastructure later on.
"When we can find common ground, working across party lines, that is what I
will seek to do," said Biden, who deemed the agreement "a true bipartisan
effort, breaking the ice that too often has kept us frozen in place."
The president stressed that "neither side got everything they wanted in this
deal; that's what it means to compromise," and said that other White House
priorities would be taken on separately in a congressional budget process known
as reconciliation, which allows for majority passage without the need for
He insisted that the two items would be done "in tandem" and that he would
not sign the bipartisan deal without the other, bigger piece. House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi and progressive members of Congress declared they would hold to
the same approach.
"There ain't going to be a bipartisan bill without a reconciliation bill,"
Claiming a major victory five months into his presidency, Biden said, "This
reminds me of the days when we used to get an awful lot done up in the United
States Congress." Biden, a former Delaware senator, said that as he put his
hand on the shoulder of a stoic-looking Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio as
the president made a surprise appearance with a bipartisan group of senators to
announce the deal outside the White House.
But the next steps are not likely to be nearly so smooth.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell complained that Biden was "caving"
to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's plan to "hold the
bipartisan agreement hostage" for the president's bigger package of what he
called "wasteful" spending.
"That's not the way to show you're serious about getting a bipartisan
outcome," McConnell said.
And there is plenty of skepticism on Biden's own left flank. Democratic Sen.
Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said the bipartisan agreement is "way too
small -- paltry, pathetic. I need a clear, ironclad assurance that there will
be a really adequate robust package" that will follow.
Thursday's deal was struck by the bipartisan group led by Portman and
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, including some of the more independent
lawmakers in the Senate, some known for bucking their parties.
"You know there are many who say bipartisanship is dead in Washington,"
Sinema said. "We can use bipartisanship to solve these challenges."
And Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, "It sends an important message to the
world as well that America can function, can get things done."
The proposal includes both new and existing spending on long-running
programs and highlights the struggle lawmakers faced in coming up with ways to
pay for what have typically been popular ideas.
The investments include $109 billion on roads and highways and $15 billion
on electric vehicle infrastructure and transit systems as part of $312 billion
in transportation spending. There's $65 billion toward broadband and
expenditures on drinking water systems and $47 billion in resiliency efforts to
tackle climate change.
Rather than Biden's proposed corporate tax hike that Republicans oppose or
the gas tax increase that the president rejected, funds will be tapped from a
range of sources -- without a full tally yet, according to a White House
Money will come from $125 billion in COVID-19 relief funds approved in 2020
but not yet spent, as well as untapped unemployment insurance funds that
Democrats have been hesitant to poach. Other revenue is expected by going
harder after tax cheats by beefing up Internal Revenue Service enforcement that
Portman said could yield $100 billion.
The rest is a hodgepodge of asset sales and accounting tools, including
funds coming from 5G telecommunication spectrum lease sales, strategic
petroleum reserve and an expectation that the sweeping investment will generate
economic growth -- what the White House calls the "macroeconomic impact of
The senators from both parties stressed that the deal will create jobs for
the economy and rebuild the nation's standing on the global stage, a belief
that clearly transcended the partisan interests and created a framework for the
"We're going to keep working together -- we're not finished," Republican
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said. "But America works, the Senate works."
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana said it will show the world "we're not
just, you know, a hot mess here."
For Biden, the deal was a welcome result. Though for far less than he
originally sought, Biden had bet his political capital that he could work with
Republicans toward major legislation.
Moreover, Biden and his aides believed that they needed a bipartisan deal on
infrastructure to create a permission structure for more moderate Democrats --
including Sinema and Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- to then be willing to go
for a party-line vote for the rest of the president's agenda.
The announcement leaves unclear the fate of Biden's promises of massive
investment to slow climate change, which Biden this spring called "the
existential crisis of our times."
Biden's presidential campaign had helped win progressive backing with
pledges of major spending on electric vehicles, charging stations, and research
and funding for overhauling the U.S. economy to run on less oil, gas and coal.
The administration is expected to push for some of that in future legislation.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La, stressed that there are billions of dollars for
resiliency against extreme weather and the impact of climate change and deemed
Thursday's deal a "beginning investment."
Biden has sought $1.7 trillion in his American Jobs Plan and the $1.8
trillion American Families Plan for child care centers, family tax breaks and
other investments that Republicans reject as far outside the scope of
The broad reconciliation bill would likely include tax increases on the
wealthy, those earning more than $400,000 a year, and hike the corporate rate
from 21% to 28%, so a tension still exists over funding for some Republicans
and business groups.
It's still a long haul to a bill signing at the White House. The Senate
expects to consider the bipartisan package in July, but Biden's bigger proposal
is not expected to see final votes until fall.