One senior Republican said the president had made him and others look like “fucking idiots” when he said on Thursday he would not sign a bill unless it was accompanied by trillions more in a separate measure covering Democratic priorities and passed with only Democratic votes.
Tensions appeared to have cooled by Saturday, after White House negotiators Steve Ricchetti and Louisa Terrell assured senators Biden remained enthusiastic about the bipartisan deal, for which they said the president would seek to make a forceful public case.
According to a person familiar with calls to lawmakers, Biden’s team portrayed the fallout from his remarks as the back-and-forth of Washington negotiations. Biden plans to pitch the deal in trips around the US and is confident it will become law, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“My hope is that we’ll still get this done,” said Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the lead Republican negotiator. “It’s really good for America. Our infrastructure is in bad shape. It’s about time to get it done.”
Members of the group of 21 senators confirmed they had agreed with administration officials on the broad outlines of a package and were optimistic the meeting with Biden would produce a final deal.
“Republicans and Democrats have come together with the White House and we’ve agreed on a framework and we’re gonna be heading to the White House tomorrow,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters.
“I would say that we’re very, very close and we’re going to now do the outreach,” added Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
“We got our framework. We’re going to the White House,” declared Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). “We wouldn’t be going to the White House if we didn’t think it has broad-based support.”
The Senate group was focusing its efforts on legislation costing $1.2 trillion over eight years, a far cry from the sweeping $4 trillion infrastructure plans initially proposed by Biden. The American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan would fund roads, bridges and broadband internet but also the so-called “care economy” of child care centers, hospitals and elder care.
A major sticking point in negotiations was how to pay for an estimated $579 billion in new spending. Republicans have denied Biden’s proposal to increase the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, while the president nixed a GOP idea to link gas taxes to inflation.
“We have a good, good, balanced group of pay-fors,” Portman argued. “That was important to both sides. I will say, in good faith, we tried to get there. We didn’t agree on everything, but we were able to get there.”
The Senate group includes moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Manchin, in particular, has said he will oppose any infrastructure bill that does not include input from both parties. However, progressive Democrats in both chambers have warned that an infrastructure bill that does not address issues related to climate change won’t get their support.
“That deal has 20 votes,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told CNN Wednesday. “Not 60 votes.”
The White House team huddled late into the evening with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), after which Pelosi said they were “very excited about the prospect of a bipartisan agreement.”
But the pair also insisted that Congress consider both the bipartisan deal and the massive Democratic proposal, now drafted to cost nearly $6 trillion. That package would run through the budget reconciliation process, which would allow passage of Biden’s priorities by majority vote without the need for support from Republicans to overcome the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.