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Sen. Cassidy Says McConnell ‘Will Be For’ Biden’s $1 Billion Infrastructure Bill—But Big Opposition Remains

Topline

A slew of Republicans Sunday came out in support of the bipartisan infrastructure framework released Thursday, with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) even saying Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would likely be on board, but Democratic hesitancy to move on infrastructure without simultaneously authorizing spending for other priorities could mean negotiations drag into next year. 

Key Facts

Though McConnell hasn’t publicly supported the agreement, Portman told NBC News Sunday morning he thinks the Senate leader “will be for” the bill “if it continues to come together as it is.”

Portman also said McConnell “didn’t like” that President Joe Biden initially said he would only sign the bill if it’s joined by a reconciliation bill that packages together Democratic priorities and could be passed on one-party lines, but Biden backtracked from those comments in a statement Saturday.

“I am glad they have now been delinked and we can move forward with a bipartisan bill,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said Sunday of Biden’s reconciliation pivot, calling the $1 billion infrastructure framework “a great deal.” 

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told CNN he takes Biden “at his word” on the backtracked comments and that he believes the bill will garner enough Republican votes to pass through Congress—but only if Democrats “decide how to proceed.”

Fueling uncertainty over the bill’s fate in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday the House would only vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill once the Senate passes the larger reconciliation bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) echoed the sentiment Friday, saying “everyone in our caucus knows we can’t do one without the other,” but stopping short of saying he wouldn’t allow a Senate vote on infrastructure without the reconciliation deal.

Crucial Quote 

“This whole process is still in its very early stages and has months to go,” Vital Knowledge Media Founder Adam Crisafulli wrote in a Sunday email, noting that specific details of the bipartisan bill have yet to be released (though broad spending categories have been outlined). “Investors should expect the next stage of the infrastructure negotiations to be very partisan and focused on tax increases, social infrastructure spending and reconciliation, but the risk of large tax increases remains very low.”

Key Background

Democrats have only a one-vote lead in the Senate, assuming Vice President Kamala Harris casts a tie-breaking vote on legislation split across party lines. As a result, party leaders have been looking to move on priorities not directly tied to infrastructure—many outlined in Biden’s families’ plan—through a special budgetary process called reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority to pass because it bypasses the Senate filibuster that can stall a vote indefinitely without support from 60 senators. The current fate of such a bill is also incredibly uncertain given opposition among Democrat moderates wary of authorizing more spending on one-party lines. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators released an infrastructure framework Thursday that would allocate $953 billion for spending on projects to improve the nation’s roads and bridges over the next five years. And though Biden walked back comments he wouldn’t sign a bipartisan infrastructure agreement without the reconciliation bill, he has vowed to simultaneously work on both in an effort to ameliorate progressives who say the new framework doesn’t sufficiently satisfy Democratic priorities.

What To Watch For

Crisafulli says the bipartisan agreement reached Thursday is one of the two “most likely” infrastructure scenarios, with the other being nothing. “Republicans and stocks are fine with either, but the GOP will probably look to promote inaction and run out the clock until early 2022, when Washington’s law-making machinery is shuttered ahead of the midterms.”

Chief Critic

“I think there is, like I said, 20 votes for this,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said of the bipartisan infrastructure agreement Thursday. “I can find you a lot of other things that there are 20 votes for.”

Further Reading

Biden Backtracks On Veto Threat On Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Following Republican Outrage (Forbes)

Biden Cuts Infrastructure Deal With Senators, Vows To Pair With Larger Spending Bill (Forbes)

A Big Bipartisan Deal On Infrastructure Is Unlikely, Making Democrat-Backed Tax Hikes More Likely, According To Goldman Sachs (Forbes)

Stocks Hit New Highs As Investors Rally Around Biden Infrastructure Deal And ‘Punchbowl Of Stimulus’ (Forbes)

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