WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a hard-won bipartisan deal on a scaled-down infrastructure plan that would kick-start his legislative priority and validate his efforts to reach the political alley. But he openly acknowledged that Democrats will likely have to tackle much of the rest on their own.
The bill’s price at $ 973 billion over five years, or $ 1.2 trillion over eight years, is a small but still important part of Biden’s broader proposals.
It includes over half a trillion dollars in new spending and could open the door to the president’s more radical $ 4 trillion childcare proposals and what the White House later calls human infrastructure.
“When we can find common ground, work across party lines, that’s what I’ll be looking to do,” said Biden, who considered the agreement “a real bipartisan effort, breaking the ice which has too often kept us frozen in place “.
The president stressed that “neither side got everything they wanted in this deal; that’s what it means to compromise, ”and said other White House priorities would be taken care of separately in a Congressional budget process known as reconciliation, which allows for the passage of a majority without having to need Republican votes.
He insisted that the two elements would be carried out “in tandem” and that he would not sign the bipartite agreement without the other, more important element. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and progressive members of Congress have said they will maintain the same approach.
“There will be no bipartisan bill without a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi said.
Claiming a major victory five months into his presidency, Biden said, “It reminds me of when we used to do a lot of stuff in the United States Congress.” Biden, a former Delaware senator, said that by putting his hand on the shoulder of stoic-looking Republican senator Rob Portman, as the president made a surprise appearance with a bipartisan group of senators to announce the agreement in front of the White House.
But the next steps are unlikely to be so smooth.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell complained that Biden was “giving in” to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s plan to “hold the bipartisan deal hostage” for the biggest package in the government. president of what he called “unnecessary” spending.
“That’s not the way to show you’re serious about a bipartisan outcome,” McConnell said.
And there is a lot of skepticism on Biden’s left flank. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said the bipartisan deal is “way too small – paltry, pathetic. I need a clear and foolproof assurance that there will be a truly adequate robust package ”that will follow.
Thursday’s deal was struck by the bipartisan group led by Republican Portman of Ohio and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, including some of the more independent Senate lawmakers, some known to oppose their gone.
“You know, there are a lot of people who say two-party politics is dead in Washington,” Sinema said, “We can use two-party politics to solve these challenges.”
And Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, “It also sends an important message to the world that America can work, can get things done.”
The proposal includes both new and existing spending for long-term programs and highlights the struggle lawmakers have faced to find ways to pay for generally popular ideas.
Investments include $ 109 billion in roads and highways and $ 15 billion in electric vehicle infrastructure and transit systems as part of the $ 312 billion in transportation spending. There is $ 65 billion for broadband and spending on drinking water systems and $ 47 billion for resilience efforts to tackle climate change.
Rather than Biden’s proposed corporate tax hike that Republicans oppose or the gasoline tax increase the president has rejected, the funds will come from a variety of sources – without a full tally yet. , according to a White House document.
The money will come from $ 125 billion in COVID-19 relief funds approved in 2020 but not yet spent, as well as untapped unemployment insurance funds that Democrats have been reluctant to poach. Other revenues are expected to rise after tax evasion by bolstering the Internal Revenue Service enforcement which Portman says could bring in $ 100 billion.
The rest is a mishmash of asset selling and accounting tools, including funds from rental sales of 5G telecommunications spectrum, a strategic reserve of oil, and an expectation that the overall investment will generate growth. economic – what the White House calls “the macroeconomic impact of investing in infrastructure.
Senators from both sides stressed that the deal will create jobs for the economy and rebuild the nation’s position on the world stage, a belief that clearly transcends partisan interests and creates a framework for the deal.
“We’re going to continue working together – we’re not done,” Republican Mitt Romney said. “But America works, the Senate works.”
Montana Democrat Jon Tester said it would show the world “we’re not just, you know, a hot mess here.”
For Biden, the deal was a welcome outcome. Although for far less than he was originally looking for, Biden had bet his political capital that he could work with Republicans on major legislation.
Additionally, Biden and his aides believed they needed a bipartisan infrastructure deal to create a licensing structure for more moderate Democrats – including West Virginia’s Sinema and Joe Manchin – to then be ready to go. vote for the rest of the party line. the president’s agenda.
The announcement leaves uncertain the fate of Biden’s promises of massive investments to slow climate change, which Biden this spring called “the existential crisis of our time.”
Biden’s presidential campaign had helped gain progressive support with promises of significant spending on electric vehicles, charging stations, as well as research and funding for overhauling the U.S. economy to run on less oil. , gas and coal. The administration is expected to push for some of this in future legislation.
Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La, pointed out that there were billions of dollars for resilience against extreme weather conditions and the impacts of climate change and said Thursday’s deal was a “start-up investment.” .
Biden asked for $ 1.7 trillion in his U.S. jobs plan and the US $ 1.8 trillion plan for families for child care, family tax breaks and other investments Republicans reject because they go beyond “infrastructure.”
The sweeping reconciliation bill would likely include tax increases on the rich, those who earn more than $ 400,000 a year, and lower the corporate rate from 21% to 28%. So there are still tensions over funding for some Republicans and business groups.
The signing of a bill at the White House is still long. The Senate expects to consider the bipartisan package in July, but Biden’s larger proposal is not expected to see final votes until the fall.
Associated Press editors Kevin Freking, Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram, Matthew Daly and Darlene Superville contributed reporting.