Pared-down infrastructure bill’s price tag: $1.2 trillion
By Jonathan Lemire, Josh Boak and Lisa Mascaro
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced on Thursday a hard-earned bipartisan agreement on a pared-down infrastructure plan that would make a start on his top legislative priority and validate his efforts to reach across the political aisle. But he acknowledged that Democrats will likely have to tackle much of the rest on their own.
The bill’s price tag at $973 billion over five years, or $1.2 trillion over eight years, is a scaled-back but still significant piece of Biden’s broader proposals.
It includes more than a half-trillion dollars in new spending and could open the door to the president’s more sweeping $4 trillion proposals for child care and what the White House calls human infrastructure later on.
“When we can find common ground, working across party lines, that is what I will seek to do,” said Biden, who deemed the deal “a true bipartisan effort, breaking the ice that too often has 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 that other White House priorities would be taken on separately in a congressional budget process known as reconciliation, which allows for majority passage without the need for Republican votes.
He insisted that the two items would be done “in tandem” and that he would not sign the bipartisan deal without the other, bigger piece. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and progressive members of Congress declared they would hold to the same approach.
“There ain’t going to be a bipartisan bill without a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi said.
Claiming a major victory five months into his presidency, Biden said, “This reminds me of the days when we used to get an awful lot done up in the United States Congress.” Biden, a former Delaware senator, said that as he put his hand on the shoulder of a stoic-looking Republican Sen. Rob Portman as the president made a surprise appearance with a bipartisan group of senators to announce the deal outside the White House.
But the next steps are not likely to be nearly so smooth.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell complained that Biden was “caving” to Pelosi and Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer’s plan to “hold the bipartisan agreement hostage” for the president’s bigger package of what he called “wasteful” spending.
“That’s not the way to show you’re serious about getting a bipartisan outcome,” McConnell said.