Biden tries to take again feedback on the Infrastructure Act to curb GOP defectors
Biden wrote in Saturday’s statement that his comments “gave the impression that I threatened the very plan that I had just approved, which was certainly not my intention.”
His efforts to clean up these comments amounted to one of the most significant course corrections of Biden’s highly disciplined presidency, which until now had largely defied its reputation as a runaway machine.
“The bottom line is: I’ve given my word to support the infrastructure plan, and that’s what I intend to do,” said Biden on Saturday. “I intend to vigorously pursue the adoption of this plan, which the Democrats and Republicans agreed on Thursday.”
Still, Biden said, “I was clear from the start that it was my hope that the infrastructure plan could be one that Democrats and Republicans would work on while I would try to pass my family plan and other provisions down through the known process as reconciliation . “
The statement contrasts with Biden’s remarks in the East Room on Thursday in which he warned, “What I expect – I expect that in the coming months of this summer, before the fiscal year is over, we will vote on this bill, infrastructure Draft law and voted on the budget resolution. But if only one comes to me – if that’s the only thing I can think of, I won’t sign it. It is at the same time. “
The remarks were quickly criticized by Republicans, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who warned in a speech on Thursday: “This is not a way of showing that you are serious about getting a bipartisan result.”
While Biden’s advisors believed his opinion was correct – they want both deals to be passed at the same time – they recognized the tactic of publicly demanding so much was too urgent and needed to be tempered, as CNN previously reported.
In their public comments, White House officials – including press secretary Jen Psaki – declined to directly reiterate Biden’s threat not to have the deal signed if the larger package fails.
White House officials believe it has long been clear that the two packages would move together and publicly poked fun at the proposals that took lawmakers by surprise. But Biden’s ultimatum appeared to test the durability of the deal, and resulted in the same advisors who negotiated the deal on Friday again on the phone with lawmakers, who resisted.
Steve Ricchetti and Louisa Terrell, two of Biden’s leading infrastructure negotiators, reached out to members of the bipartisan Senate group Friday amid Republican excitement over Biden’s comments on the legislative process, a White House official said.
Earlier on Friday, White House officials set up a lunchtime visit with Arizona Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who had been negotiating for the Senate Democrats, to reassure her where Biden was. The White House released a reading of their conversation – an unusual move usually reserved for foreign counterparts – which said Biden and Sinema discussed his plan to try to support the deal among both Democrats and Republicans. A senior administration official admitted that they were trying to withhold Biden’s remarks and followed directly on to those efforts in his conversation with Sinema.
Going forward, the White House plans to focus on selling the bipartisan bill instead of getting into the order in which Biden receives the bill and letting the Democratic leadership take over the schedule.
Biden will get his sales pitch on the streets for the bipartisan infrastructure deal, starting with a speech in Wisconsin on Tuesday, a White House official said.
This story has been updated with additional background.
Kevin Liptak, Kaitlan Collins, Phil Mattingly, and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.