(Headline USA) President Joe Biden declared on Thursday that “we have a deal,” announcing a bipartisan agreement on a $953 billion infrastructure plan that would achieve his top legislative priority and validate his efforts to reach across the political aisle.
Details of the deal were scarce, but the plan — with $559 billion in new spending — has bipartisan backing. However, the deal is essentially irrelevant, as Democrats as a whole have vowed to pass the president’s more sweeping, $4-trillion progressive agenda later on.
However, the agreement joined by moderate Republicans gives Democrats and Biden the appearance of a victory, enabling him to look like he reached across the aisle to “get something done.”
Biden made a surprise appearance in front of the cameras with members of a group of senators, Republicans and Democrats, after an agreement was reached at the White House.
“This reminds me of the days when we used to get an awful lot done up in the United States Congress,” said Biden, a former Delaware senator, putting his hand on the shoulder of a stoic-looking Republican Sen. Rob Portman.
The president said not everyone got what they wanted and that other White House priorities would be tackled separately in a congressional budget process known as reconciliation.
“We’ve struck a deal,” Biden then tweeted. “A group of senators – five Democrats and five Republicans – has come together and forged an infrastructure agreement that will create millions of American jobs.”
The deal was struck amid months of partisan rancor that has consumed Washington, yet Biden has insisted that something could be done despite skepticism from many in his own party. Led by Republican Portman of Ohio and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the group includes some of the more independent lawmakers in the Senate, some known for bucking their parties.
“You know there are many who say bipartisanship is dead in Washington,” said Sinema, “We can use bipartisanship to solve these challenges.”
And Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, “It sends an important message to the world as well that America can function, can get things done.”
The senators have struggled over how to pay for the new spending but left for the White House with a sense of confidence that funding issues had been addressed. The senators from both parties stressed that the deal will create jobs for the economy, a belief that clearly transcended the partisan interests and created a framework for the deal.
“We’re going to keep working together–we’re not finished,” Sen. Mitt Romney said. “But America works, the Senate works.”
For Biden, the deal was a welcome result.
Though for far less than the approximately $2 trillion he originally sought, which may raise some ire on the left, Biden had bet his political capital that he could work with Republicans and showcase that democracy could still work as a counter-example to rising autocracies across the globe.
Moreover, Biden and his aides believed that they needed a bipartisan deal on infrastructure to create a permission structure for more moderate Democrats — including Sinema and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — to then be willing to go for a party-line vote for the rest of the president’s agenda. Thus the appearance of a “bipartisan deal,” which will only provide cover for the Democrats to enact the rest of their agenda wholly on their own.
Biden’s top aides had met with senators for back-to-back meetings on Capitol Hill and later huddled with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The agreement comes with a complex legislative push. Pelosi on Thursday warned that it must be paired with the president’s bigger goals now being prepared by Congress under a process that could push them through the Senate with only Democratic votes.
“This is important,” Pelosi said. “There ain’t going to be a bipartisan bill without a reconciliation bill.”
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.