Biden Aims to Keep Infrastructure Deal Alive, Denying Veto Vow

President Joe Biden sought to hold together a $579 billion bipartisan infrastructure agreement, saying he hadn’t intended to issue a veto threat by linking it to another spending bill, a position that alarmed Republican senators who had made the deal.

Biden said in a statement on Saturday that his comments “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 president plans to begin traveling the country on Tuesday to promote the $579 billion bipartisan infrastructure agreement, with his first stop in Wisconsin, a White House official said. The goal is to build public support not only for the deal but for the social-spending and tax increases Democrats hope to include in the second piece of legislation, which would include elements of his American Families Plan.

“To be clear: our bipartisan agreement does not preclude Republicans from attempting to defeat my Families Plan; likewise, they should have no objections to my devoted efforts to pass that Families Plan and other proposals in tandem,” Biden said in the statement. “We will let the American people --and the Congress -- decide.”

The president and a bipartisan group of 10 senators announced Thursday they had reached an agreement on new infrastructure spending. Biden suggested at the time that his signature on the final infrastructure bill was contingent on Congress also passing the much larger tax and social spending measure that Democrats are preparing.

“If only one comes to me, I’m not -- and if this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it. It’s in tandem,” Biden said Thursday.

Republican Complaints

Republican senators, including some who had been part of the negotiations to make the deal, quickly expressed misgivings, saying that Biden’s insistence on linking the two bills had not been part of their agreement.

“It was a tale of two press conferences -- endorse the agreement in one breath and threaten to veto it in the next,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday. “That’s not the way to show you’re serious about getting a bipartisan outcome.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the lower chamber wouldn’t pass the infrastructure plan without the multi-trillion follow-on tax and social spending package. It remains to be seen if this exercise of leverage, absent a Biden veto threat, is enough for progressive Democrats.

Senior Biden aides Steve Ricchetti and Louisa Terrell spent Friday working to calm skittish Republicans. Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman said in a tweet Saturday that lawmakers should pass it.

“Washington has been talking about truly modernizing our infrastructure for decades,” Portman said. “We should pass it because it is good for the economy and the country.”

The White House insisted Friday that the president made clear his intention to pursue both pieces of legislation in parallel in public statements before the deal was reached, and even during the brief media availability he held outside the West Wing with the senators involved in the negotiations standing beside him.

“That hasn’t been a secret. He hasn’t said it quietly,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

But the administration’s efforts didn’t mollify the Republicans’ concerns, prompting Biden’s statement on Saturday.

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