White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the White House plans to negotiate with Republicans over President Biden’s infrastructure proposals, even as Democrats in Congress are readying to jam it through without any GOP votes.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Psaki said the White House has been in touch with Republicans in Congress about Biden’s plan and that it is open to including GOP ideas in the bill.
“We’re welcoming ideas,” Psaki said. “If Republicans have ideas, other Democrats have ideas on different ways to pay for this package, on different ways to achieve the goals, we’re very open to that. So I think that will be a part of the process as well.”
Psaki also said the White House had been in touch “with the chairs and ranking members, Democrats and Republicans,” in Congress, “because having this conversation is an important part of what we’re doing.”
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Biden in Pittsburgh Wednesday will officially unveil his massive $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan, which will target spending at bridges and roads, manufacturing, clean energy broadband, water and more.
It’s unclear how many — if any — Republicans will be willing to get on board with such a large spending package, especially after Democrats forced through Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus spending plan via budget reconciliation. That process allowed them to circumvent the Senate filibuster and avoid compromising with Republicans.
It’s also unclear how much ground the White House and congressional Democrats would actually be willing to give in order to secure GOP votes for the package.
Biden held one meeting with a group of moderate Republican senators over the coronavirus plan earlier this year. Shortly after, Psaki released a statement many saw as a broadside against the senators’ proposal. It said that Biden would “not slow down work on this urgent crisis response, and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment.”
Psaki on Wednesday, however, said the infrastructure bill is not the same situation.
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“The American Rescue plan was a little bit different because it was … addressing an emergency that we’re still fighting,” she said on “Morning Joe.” “This is a big jobs bill but we have a little bit more time to negotiate, to have discussions, to hear if people have better ideas on either the proposals or how to pay for it.”
Meanwhile, however, Democrats in Congress are preparing to pass the infrastructure package and perhaps multiple other pieces of legislation via budget reconciliation. Democrats can pass the current infrastructure proposal via reconciliation if they choose to. That would exhaust the second of two opportunities they have to use reconciliation per Congress.
But they are in the process of arguing that months down the road, they could revisit reconciliation measures already passed and amend them with more items on Biden’s agenda, all without having to compromise with Republicans.
Whether this is possible will be up to the Senate parliamentarian. But it signals a potential disconnect between the Biden administration’s messaging and where Democrats in Congress actually are on the issue of cooperating with Republicans.
Further, Punchbowl News reported Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told her members this week that she aims to get Biden’s infrastructure plan through Congress by July. That means the House will try to push through the $2.2 trillion bill that Congress hasn’t even started drafting in just over three months.
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If Democrats do move ahead with passing the Biden infrastructure plan via budget reconciliation, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would still be faced with a delicate balancing act given their slim majorities in each chamber.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said on Tuesday that Biden’s $2.2 trillion bill doesn’t spend “nearly enough” money, noting that the spending would be spread out over approximately a decade.
But moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said earlier this month that he is highly reluctant to back an infrastructure bill that is moved exclusively via reconciliation.
“I am not willing to go into reconciliation until we at least give bipartisanship, or get working together, or allow the Senate to do its job. Just by assuming that ‘Hey, they’ll never work with us…’ I don’t subscribe to that,” Manchin said on NBC about an infrastructure bill. “There’s no need for us to go to reconciliation until the other process has failed. That means the normal process of a committee, a hearing, amendments.”
Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.