Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lambasted Democrats’ congressional leaders Monday for holding a bipartisan infrastructure plan “hostage” until a big-spending social bill passes along party lines, as President Biden prepared to promote his rickety deal in the Midwest.
Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, rebuked Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, for linking the infrastructure deal to other costly Democratic priorities.
Mr. Biden did the same last week but backed down from a veto threat over the weekend after objections from Republican senators who had agreed to the infrastructure deal.
The threats by Democratic leaders amount to extortion and a breach of the “bipartisan good faith” that Republican lawmakers have experienced so far, Mr. McConnell said in a statement.
“Unless Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi walk back their threats that they will refuse to send the president a bipartisan infrastructure bill unless they also separately pass trillions of dollars for unrelated tax hikes, wasteful spending, and Green New Deal socialism, then President Biden‘s walk-back of his veto threat would be a hollow gesture,” Mr. McConnell said. “The president cannot let congressional Democrats hold a bipartisan bill hostage over a separate and partisan process.”
The Senate Republican leader gave his warning before Mr. Biden took his first trip to sell the tentative $1.2 trillion deal to voters. The president is scheduled to travel to Lacrosse, Wisconsin, on Tuesday to promote the package.
Mr. Biden hopes to get the deal back on track by promoting its expected economic benefits. He called it the largest investment in transportation in nearly a century and predicted it would create 1 million jobs.
An internal White House document obtained by The Associated Press said the spending plan is four times the size of the Obama administration’s stimulus deal approved in response to the Great Recession and the biggest infrastructure package since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The document says 90% of the jobs generated could go to workers without college degrees.
The White House also rebutted a left-wing group’s argument that Mr. Biden‘s infrastructure plan doesn’t go far enough to address climate change.
“I would dispute the notion that it doesn’t do anything for climate, which some are arguing,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
Liberal Democrats and environmentalists protested in front of the White House to demand that Mr. Biden jettison the bipartisan infrastructure deal in favor of a “bold” party-line package that tackles climate change.
The protest, organized by the Sunrise Movement, brought more than 100 activists to the streets of Washington. Many brandished signs urging Mr. Biden to make good on his campaign platform and take significant steps to combat climate change.
“The sign says it all,” a young activist told The Washington Times while holding up a placard that read: “Biden you coward fight for us.”
The Sunrise Movement has organized protests against the president’s infrastructure proposal for several weeks. Activists say it doesn’t invest enough money to fight climate change.
After months of negotiations, Mr. Biden and a group of 11 bipartisan senators agreed last week on the infrastructure package. The deal would spend $1.2 trillion on upgrading the nation’s roads and bridges over the next eight years.
Mr. McConnell has encouraged the negotiations but hasn’t supported the deal. He said Monday that Democratic leaders must abandon their legislative strategy of tying the agreement to trillions of dollars of more spending on programs such as paid leave, child care and education.
“The president has appropriately delinked a potential bipartisan infrastructure bill from the massive, unrelated tax-and-spend plans that Democrats want to pursue on a partisan basis,” Mr. McConnell said. “Now I am calling on President Biden to engage Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi and make sure they follow his lead.”
Democrats on the far left are pining for a comprehensive package that includes traditional and “human” infrastructure, such as job training for felons and money to combat climate change.
Given such views, liberals refuse to support the deal unless their priorities are incorporated into a bigger spending bill.
Because the larger bill cannot garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, liberals are demanding that it pass via budget reconciliation. The process allows spending bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes.
Aiding their efforts is Mrs. Pelosi, who last week vowed to block the infrastructure bill from the House floor before the Senate moved a reconciliation bill.
“Let me be really clear on this: We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill,” the speaker said.
Mr. McConnell made his remarks a day after Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said the majority of Republican lawmakers were hesitant to back the infrastructure deal.
“Well, I have talked to a number of members of the bipartisan group. They are all reluctant now to move forward,” Mr. Barrasso said during a Sunday appearance on Fox News. “They’re going to need more assurances from the president that there is no link, no connection between the bipartisan bill and this bill that the Democrats want to do.”