December 4, 2023

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on the steps of the US Capitol.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

A bipartisan infrastructure proposal by President Joe Biden and a group of senators has regained a foothold.

Even so, the Democrats’ plan to get it through Congress, along with a broader package to expand the social safety net and fight climate change, faces a well-known threat: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

Biden’s proposal last week to veto the bipartisan framework unless lawmakers adopt other democratic priorities briefly threatened the deal. The president reassured some Republicans by making it clear that if passed alone, he would sign the bill. But McConnell insisted Monday that the Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill must also separate the two laws, increasing the risk that the deal could fail.

“The president has appropriately separated a potential bipartisan infrastructure bill from the massive, independent tax and spending plans that the Democrats want to pursue on a partisan basis,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement. “Now I urge President Biden to engage Leader Schumer and Spokesman Pelosi and ensure that they follow his example.”

Biden’s statement “would be a hollow gesture” unless Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, make the same commitment to the bipartisan plan without it Pass Democratic law, McConnell said.

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The statement by McConnell, who vowed to fight Biden’s economic agenda, underscores the dangers Democrats face in trying to enforce their priorities. Pressure from McConnell could undo the party’s delicate strategy of keeping its liberal and centrist members on board for both bills.

Representatives from Schumer, Pelosi and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a tweet on Monday, Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy offered his opinion on McConnell’s testimony, saying that “the all-consuming motivation of the GOP leader is to keep everything from happening when the Democrats are in control” .

Some progressives have threatened to oppose the bipartisan plan because it is not doing enough to combat climate change. A handful of middle-class Democrats have expressed doubts that without the Republicans they could be passing trillions of dollars in new spending.

To make sure neither of the two plans fail, Pelosi said she would not accept either of the proposals in the House of Representatives until they both reach the Senate. Schumer plans to start voting on both measures next month.

It is unclear whether Schumer and Pelosi will stick to the strategy if it means they could lose GOP votes for the bipartisan plan. In the Senate split 50:50 according to parties, an infrastructure law needs at least 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden had contacted Schumer and Pelosi about how to proceed.

The move would take 10 Republicans to back it, if all Democrats support it, and one more GOP vote for every Democratic defection. Eleven Republicans backed the bipartisan framework, and some of those lawmakers signaled they were still on board after Biden clarified his position.

“I was very happy to see the president clarify his remarks because it didn’t match everything we were told along the way,” Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told ABC News on Sunday.

Biden will try to further show his commitment to the plan this week. He will travel to Wisconsin on Tuesday to discuss the potential benefits of the Infrastructure Bill.

The framework includes $ 579 billion in new spending on roads, bridges, railways, public transportation, electric vehicle systems, electricity, broadband and water.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Senator Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., is the Senate Majority Leader.

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