GOP senators say the deal can proceed after Biden’s walkback

US President Joe Biden speaks with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) after a bipartisan meeting with US Senators about the proposed framework for the Infrastructure Bill at the White House in Washington, USA, on June 24, 2021.

Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Sunday the bipartisan infrastructure deal can move forward after President Joe Biden made it clear he will sign the bill, even if it comes without a reconciliation package.

The president had said last week that he would refuse to sign the deal unless the two bills came together, a remark that angered and surprised Republican lawmakers.

Following backlash from Republicans including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, Biden released a lengthy statement on Saturday withdrawing the comment and reiterating full support for the deal.

“We were all taken by the comments the day before that these two bills were linked,” Portman said during an interview with ABC’s This Week.

“I’m glad they were decoupled and it is very clear that we can move forward with bipartisan law that is widespread not only among members of Congress but also among the American people,” Portman said. He added that both parties had been “in good faith” throughout the negotiations.

The second bill, known as the American Families Plan, would provide spending on Democratic-backed issues such as climate change, childcare, health care, and education. It would be passed through reconciliation, a process that does not require Republican votes to pass Congress.

Administrative officials have called the problems in the reconciliation package “human infrastructure”, while the bipartisan infrastructure law mainly focuses on improving roads, bridges and broadband.

Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La., Told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that McConnell was likely to be in favor of the infrastructure deal, but that “he didn’t like the president throwing a wrench in.”

In a statement, Biden said his remarks “gave the impression that I threatened the very plan that I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intention.”

The president also called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., to plan the bipartisan deal and reconciliation bill for Senate action, and expects both bills to go to the House of Representatives.

Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a key negotiator on the deal, said he believes enough Republicans will support the infrastructure bill to pass it and he is confident the president will sign it.

“A lot of my colleagues were very concerned about what the president was saying … but I think the water calmed down from what he said on Saturday,” Romney said in an interview with CNN’s State of the Union.

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