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On Friday, President Joe Biden and the Democrats thought they had pulled a fast one on Republicans when the president announced he would support the bipartisan infrastructure deal that had been hashed out over several weeks of negotiation. But he said he would only sign the deal if his gargantuan “American Families Plan” was also agreed to using the reconciliation process.
In other words, Biden said he wouldn’t sign a deal he had just said he would support. Republicans saw that as a bait-and-switch tactic, which it surely was. And they reacted angrily.
In fact, the criticism threatened to blow up not only the bipartisan deal, but any chance Biden had for passing his Families Plan. On Saturday, Biden pulled a 180 and announced that he would sign the bipartisan deal even if the larger bill never made it to his desk.
“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.”
He recognized 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.”
It was unclear if Biden’s statement would revive momentum behind the fragile deal that he outlined triumphantly on Thursday, flanked by five Democrats and five Republicans who had hammered it out. Many liberal Democrats have said they would support the bipartisan deal only if the other, bigger spending package was passed at the same time. Some Democrats are especially concerned that the bipartisan package does not do more to take on climate change.
The episode could be an embarrassment for Biden, who has often bragged about his negotiating skills and his innate understanding of Congress after spending 36 years in the Senate. And it could complicate the president’s efforts to get any part of his infrastructure plan passed.
Biden needs all 50 Democratic senators to advance his spending plans via reconciliation. Right now, he doesn’t have 50. Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have so far not indicated that they would support any party-line reconciliation bill. And there are elements in the climate change package that some energy state Democrats will find very difficult to support.
The bottom line for Biden is that the odds are less than 50-50 that he can swing the entire Democratic caucus in the Senate to support his reconciliation efforts.
Biden’s allies on the radical Left are steaming mad now that he has severed the fate of the bipartisan bill from the Families Plan. They see it as a betrayal after weeks of keeping their powder dry about Biden working with Republicans on anything. They see it as a waste of time — which is just the way Republicans see working with Biden. It’s hard to get anything done when the system for passing laws has broken down so completely.
As for Republicans, it’s now an open question whether there are 10 Republican senators who would vote to advance the bipartisan bill to the floor. Unless the GOP gets ironclad assurances from Biden that he will sign the bill come what may, Republicans will tell him to take a hike.