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Biden Walks Back Threat To Block Infrastructure Deal Over Democratic Priorities

President Joe Biden is walking back comments he made on Thursday that threatened an infrastructure deal the White House struck with a bipartisan group of senators.
Pete Marovich/Pool
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President Joe Biden is walking back comments he made on Thursday that threatened an infrastructure deal the White House struck with a bipartisan group of senators.

President Biden is walking back a threat that he won't sign a bipartisan infrastructure deal the White House reached with senators if it's not paired with another larger spending plan supported exclusively by Democrats.

Republicans themselves threatened to walk away from the bipartisan deal after Biden explained during a press conference that the bipartisan effort needed to be passed in tandem with a broader plan that GOP lawmakers strongly oppose.

"The bottom line is this: I gave my word to support the Infrastructure Plan, and that's what I intend to do," Biden said in a statement released Saturday afternoon. "I intend to pursue the passage of that plan, which Democrats and Republicans agreed to on Thursday, with vigor. It would be good for the economy, good for our country, good for our people. I fully stand behind it without reservation or hesitation."

The White House has been pursuing a dual track approach on infrastructure. One bill contains more traditional infrastructure spending backed by members of both parties in the Senate, and a more expansive bill including money for education, elder care and child care, among other administration priorities.

That legislation would need to pass through budget process, known as reconciliation, only with Democratic votes, if necessary.

The president announced the bipartisan infrastructure deal on Thursday standing with several lawmakers, including Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, as well as Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona.

He then gave additional remarks in East Room where he told reporters, "I'm not signing it, real simple" if the larger reconciliation package doesn't also pass.

One Republican who is key to passing the infrastructure plan, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, accused Biden and Democrats of holding the deal "hostage" after that comment.

Biden said in his lengthy statement on Saturday that he wanted to reassure some wary Democrats that he supported the broader measures. But lamented that his words also "created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to"

He says that was not his intent.

"So 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. We will let the American people—and the Congress—decide."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.