Biden walks back veto threat to infrastructure bill

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the bipartisan infrastructure deal in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday withdrew his threat to veto a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill unless a separate Democratic spending plan also passes Congress, saying that was never his intent.

Within hours of the bipartisan agreement being announced on Thursday, Republicans expressed frustration that Biden explicitly connected its signing and a multi-trillion dollar social spending package that Democrats will try to push through Congress without relying on Republican support.

“My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intent,” Biden said in a statement issued Saturday.

Biden’s attempt to decouple the two spending plans comes as the White House plans to tout the bipartisan plan during events across the country, starting in Wisconsin on Tuesday, the White House announced.

Biden plans to begin traveling the country to promote the agreement, highlighting its potential economic benefits and the importance of bringing bipartisanship back to the polarized nation’s capital. The effort is aimed at both Republicans and even some Democrats who the White House believes want the deal to unravel, a Biden administration official said.

Biden’s comments had put internal party pressure on the 11 Republicans in the group of 21 senators who endorsed the infrastructure package to abandon the agreement.

The $1.2 trillion framework includes $579 billion in new spending on major investments in the power grid, broadband internet services and passenger and freight rail. The package would be paid for through more than a dozen funding mechanisms, including $100 billion in estimated tax revenues from a ramp-up in enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service, and unused COVID-19 aid money.

Meanwhile, Democrats are cobbling together a spending bill that could include money for schools, climate change mitigation, and support for parents and caregivers. It will also likely include Biden’s bedrock pledge to make the U.S. economy more fair by increasing taxes on the rich and corporations.

That spending bill would most likely have to pass through a legislative process known as reconciliation that avoids a Senate rule requiring 60 votes to move a bill along. Democrats cannot afford to lose one vote in the Senate if they want to pass a spending bill along party lines.

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