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Biden: Infrastructure package was not a veto threat

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President Biden is seeking to clarify his position on the bipartisan infrastructure package proposed by lawmakers as he said on Saturday that he doesn’t plan to veto the bill if it comes without a reconciliation package. The statement walks back a declaration last week that he would refuse to sign the bipartisan legislation unless the two bills came in tandem.

“That statement understandably upset some Republicans, who do not see the two plans as linked,” the president said in a statement.

Biden said he didn’t mean to suggest in earlier remarks that he would veto the nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill unless Congress also passed a broader package of investments that he and fellow Democrats aim to approve along party lines, the two together totaling to nearly $4 trillion.

Biden has been clear that he would pursue the massive new spending for child care, Medicare, and other investments, although the Republicans balked at the president’s notion that he would not sign one without the other. “If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Biden said then of the infrastructure bill. “It’s in tandem.”

By Saturday, Biden was seeking to clarify those comments, after his top negotiators Steve Ricchetti and Louisa Terrell worked to assure senators that Biden remained enthusiastic about the deal.

Biden’s earlier remarks had drawn sharp criticism from some Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who tweeted on Friday, “No deal by extortion!” Others felt “blindsided” by what they said was a shift in their understanding of his position.

Biden was set to travel on Tuesday to Wisconsin for the first stop on a nationwide tour to promote the White House’s infrastructure package.

The two measures were always expected to move together through Congress: the bipartisan plan and a second bill that would advance under special rules allowing for passage solely with majority Democrats votes and is now swelling to $6 trillion. Biden reiterated that was his plan on Saturday, but said he was not conditioning one on the other.

“So, to be clear,” his statement said, “our bipartisan agreement does not preclude Republicans from attempting to defeat my Families Plan; likewise, they should have no objections to my devoted efforts to pass that Families Plan and other proposals in tandem.”

Ten Republican senators need to vote in Biden’s favor to pass the bipartisan accord in the 50-50 Senate, where 60 votes are required to advance most bills.

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