After an apparent win for bipartisanship on Capitol Hill with what Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) called the “largest infrastructure package in U.S. history,” President Biden’s long-promised pledge of unity appeared to be in the cards. The 21 senators who negotiated the $559 billion bill seemed confident that cross-party cooperation had finally worked. Until the president announced that his approval was contingent on Congress passing other legislation.
On Thursday, June 24, President Biden told reporters that without support for a budget resolution on “human infrastructure,” he would not be penning his name to the negotiated package. He said he would not sign if it were the “only one” on his desk.
“I’m not just signing the bipartisan bill and forgetting about the rest that I proposed,” he said.
“I’m getting to work with Congress right away on the other half of my economic agenda as well—the American Family Plan—to finish the job on childcare, education, the caring economy, clean energy tax cuts—clean energy, and tax cuts for American families, and much more,” Biden announced in reference to the second measure.
Bait and Switch?
The president was supported in this move by both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi insisted that she would not hold a vote on the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes a “reconciliation bill” on the second package. Schumer was quick to back his colleague, saying it’s “a good way to ensure that both ends go forward.”
The Democrat proposal is that the human infrastructure plan, estimated at $4 trillion, undergo reconciliation, meaning it would only require a simple majority to pass.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who was part of the group that negotiated the initial package, was unimpressed with what he described as extortion by the opposition party. He said:
“If reports are accurate that President Biden is refusing to sign a bipartisan deal unless reconciliation is also passed, that would be the ultimate deal-breaker for me … I don’t mind working with the other side for the common good, but I’m not going to be extorted by liberal Democrats or anyone else.”
The chorus of disapproval for this move by the Democratic Party leadership was joined by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who lashed out at President Biden’s remarks, saying, “Less than two hours after publicly commending our colleagues and actually endorsing the bipartisan agreement, the president took the extraordinary step of threatening to veto it. It almost makes your head spin.”
Unity By Any Other Name…
As philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” By pulling the rug from under the feet of senators who thought they were negotiating in good faith, Joe Biden has not only damaged the likelihood of this bill going forward; he has perhaps jeopardized any future cooperation with his Republican colleagues. Why would a politician of any stripe enter into future negotiations if they believe that an 11th-hour surprise awaits?
To quote the 18th-century British politician Charles James Fox, “All political power is trust.” The president may soon be learning this lesson.
Read more from Mark Angelides.