In order to preserve a fragile bipartisan agreement on infrastructure, President Joe Biden said Saturday that it was not his intention to suggest that he could veto the bill for nearly a trillion dollars if Congress did not also pass a larger package to expand. the social safety net.
Miami World / AP
Speaking Thursday after striking a bipartisan deal as he wished, Biden appeared to put it in jeopardy with his comment that the infrastructure proposal should move forward “in tandem” with a broader bill that he and Democrats intend to pass along the lines. of the party.
Although Biden had made it clear that he would seek a new $ 6 trillion spending for child care, the Medicare program and other investments, Republicans expressed their rejection of the president’s idea that he would not sign one without the other.
“If this is the only thing presented to me, I will not sign it,” Biden said of the infrastructure project. “It is together.”
On Saturday, Biden retracted those comments after his top negotiators Steve Ricchetti and Louisa Terrell assured senators that Biden remained enthusiastic about the deal.
“My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan that I had accepted, which was certainly not my intention,” Biden said in a statement.
“I intend to vigorously pursue approval of that plan, which Democrats and Republicans agreed to on Thursday,” Biden said. “It will be good for the economy, for our country, for our people. I fully support him without reservations or doubts ”.
Biden’s previous remarks drew strong criticism from some Republicans, including the senator.
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who tweeted on Friday “No deal on extortion!” Others said they were surprised by what they described as a change in what they understood to have been Biden’s position.
Tensions appeared to subside afterwards, when senators from the negotiating group held a virtual conference, according to a person who requested anonymity to comment on a private meeting.
“My hope is that we still get this done,” Sen. Rob Portman, the top Republican negotiator, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday. “Our infrastructure is in bad shape.”
Biden was scheduled to travel to Wisconsin on Tuesday for his first stop on a nationwide tour to promote the infrastructure plan, the White House said.