Multiple Democratic sources say that by continuing the negotiations, the president hopes to maintain the image of “bipartite Joe”. One of the Biden top advisers told Democrats that an attempted bipartisan deal could stimulate Biden politically.
While efforts to craft a bipartisan infrastructure deal have hit a wall over the size of the package and the arrangements to pay for it, the White House sees positive signs from the new group, including a willingness to move forward. a higher dollar amount than the previous GOP group led solely by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (RW.V), a White House official said.
Biden is abroad for the next eight days. But senior executives and cabinet members who have been asked to focus on the infrastructure package will be in contact with members of the bipartisan group. Biden himself has spoken with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) And intends to have similar conversations with others, according to a White House official. This group of 20 senators, led by 10 negotiators split equally between parties, includes Manchin and Sinema – who so far have not been directly involved in the White House-Congress negotiations – as well as Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) And Mark Warner (D-Va.).
While progressives long for Biden to abandon bipartisan talks altogether, most Democratic lawmakers are okay with them continuing. A White House reading of an appeal last week noted that the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Who manages elements of the president’s employment plan, which includes infrastructure spending, supported the continuation of bipartite talks. The White House was also encouraged by the passage of China’s Senate Competitiveness Bill on Tuesday evening, which is seen as a sign that the parties can reach a bipartisan compromise.
Even progressive Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said he was not disturbed by the administration’s decision to continue talks with Republicans because that would ultimately not prevent Democrats from pushing their priorities forward. .
“Negotiations rarely make matters worse, so I commend them for their unwavering optimism, but I am happy to know that constitutionally it is the legislature that makes laws,” Schatz said in an interview. “I think Joe Biden would prefer to do all of this on a bipartisan basis.”
Schatz said he was confident that the provisions to tackle climate change would be included in the final infrastructure bills passed by Congress, arguing that the issue “was key to the Biden agenda” and “the key to why we have reached the “power trio.”
“I don’t think that in 50 years, the question will be: did this Congress have the weather before the August recess? said Schatz. “The question is going to be, did this Congress make the weather? If we have to do this bill in September, I have no objection to that.
As the White House begins a second track of bipartisan negotiations, it is also working on a parallel track to ensure passage of the entire Biden infrastructure package. Senate Democrats have started work on the next budget reconciliation process, which will include most of Biden’s proposals, and move to the Senate with only Democrat support. And DeFazio’s House committee on Wednesday launched a hike to its five-year, $ 547 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill, which will likely be a vehicle for some of Biden’s infrastructure plans.
A White House official described the overall strategy in layman’s terms: working to see if there is a deal to be made, but also working as if there isn’t.
But Democrats aren’t entirely confident about the approach. As Biden flew to Europe on Wednesday, a number of lawmakers indirectly threatened to withhold votes of the final bill after comments from Biden’s White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy that certain climate change provisions – such as a clean energy standard – may not be in the final compromise .
Progressive lawmakers and activists also fear that the longer the talks drag on, the more likely it is that other key priorities unrelated to infrastructure will never be adopted.
Whenever the White House ends “kabuki” with GOP senators, it will take weeks for Democrats to negotiate among themselves, said Brian Fallon, former Obama administration and executive director of Demand Justice, a group of lawyers. defense of the rights of progressive candidates for the bench.
“The victim here is the rest of Biden’s program,” Fallon said. “You seal our fate in terms of our inability to ever force an account on filibuster by taking so long on these other bills.”
“He’s got his COVID recovery package, and somehow he’s going to get an infrastructure package,” Fallon added. “So Biden will have two [big] things, but is it going to get the third one?