Biden Announces Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

Details are quite scant at the moment.

President Joe Biden participates in a virtual call with the NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance Mission team members Thursday, March 4, 2021, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

CNN (“Biden: ‘We have a deal’ on infrastructure with bipartisan group of senators“):

President Joe Biden said Thursday he has agreed to a deal on infrastructure with a bipartisan group of senators after White House officials and the senators had a massive breakthrough the night before in their infrastructure negotiations.

Both Republican and Democratic senators said Wednesday evening there was an agreement reached with White House officials and 10 senators on a bipartisan infrastructure deal. And on Thursday afternoon, Biden said he had signed off on the agreement.”To answer your direct question, we have a deal,” he said.

Though hurdles remain, the announced agreement is a significant development that could pave the way for passage of a chunk of Biden’s domestic agenda.

[…]

A lot of work remains on the policy and drafting side of the proposal. But Biden and his team have grown increasingly bullish on the pathway a bipartisan agreement lays out for moving the full scope of the President’s $4 trillion economic agenda.

Many details of the plan remain unclear. But the total cost of the plan is $1.2 trillion over eight years, with $559 billion in new spending, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

This proposal is significantly less than what Biden had initially proposed. The President initially put forward a $2.25 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and shift to greener energy over the next eight years. But after their late-night meeting on Wednesday with White House officials, Democratic leaders said they planned to move forward with a much larger Democratic-only approach to dramatically expand the social safety plan in addition to the bipartisan infrastructure plan.GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said the bipartisan proposal is fully paid for and offsets the new spending. How to pay for the proposal has been a major point of contention during the negotiations.

The bipartisan proposal agreed to on Wednesday would be approved through the typical legislative process, which means 60 votes would be needed to pass key procedural steps in a body divided 50-50 Democrats and Republicans.

Without more details, it remains to be seen whether this is a “win” for Biden and Democrats. Republicans managed to leverage a much smaller package that’s “paid for”—by whom or what we don’t know.

Obviously, Democrats could have gotten much more by either ramming this through on reconciliation or abolishing the filibuster. So, in that sense, it’s a loss. But it matters what the offset is.

Does this presage more Republican cooperation in the future? Doubtful. If not, it’s unclear what “bipartisanship” does for the majority.

Do Democrats simply ram the rest of the package through on reconciliation? If so, then “bipartisanship” is just a short-lived talking point.

FILED UNDER: Joe Biden, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    At one level, I get your point. What does “bipartisanship” mean in this context, where the rest of it can be done via reconciliation? Maybe the 10 senators think voting for “infrastructure” will work for them. I mean, Trump ran on it, after all.

    AND, I kind of object to the notion that passing something with a majority, even though it’s a small one, is “ramming it through”. All my years living in CA, which requires a supermajority to pass budgets (more Prop 13 foolishness), have cemented the notion that majorities have to be good enough to do budgetary work.

    You vote for things, they pass, they have consequences, you are accountable for those consequences. That’s how a representative democracy is supposed to work.

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  2. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I think El Cheeto ran on whining about it.

    AND, I kind of object to the notion that passing something with a majority, even though it’s a small one, is “ramming it through”.

    I second that.

    Either the filibuster goes, or the Senate should require a supermajority for passing any laws. And, while we’re at it, why not a supermajority of the EC to win?

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  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Interested to see what’s actually in the bill.
    But it’s damn nice to see competence in the White House, again.
    And I have to say again…and again…and again…50 R Senators, who represent 20 million fewer people than the 50 D Senators, do not define bipartisanship. Repeatedly they define rank partisanship.
    Biden’s Infrastructure bill has bipartisan support to the tune of ~56% of Adult Americans.

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  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Correction…D Senators represent ~41M more Americans than R Senators.

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  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Oh…and now I see that only 5 Republicans have agreed to this. Where are the other 5 going to come from? And does Mitch know?
    I see Lucy Van Pelt placing the ball, and Charlie Brown is winding up for the kick…

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  6. KM says:

    Do Democrats simply ram the rest of the package through on reconciliation? If so, then “bipartisanship” is just a short-lived talking point.

    Yep, it’s marketing for people who seems to need some sort of lipservice to the Fairness Gods. Somehow, it’s not OK for Dems to actually govern within their rights and the promises made to their constituents unless we bow down and murmur “bipartisanship” 10 times. We must then pretend the tantruming obstructionists are somehow reasonable beings acting rationally when they tell us right of the bat Hell No Never and that’s something they’ll compromise on. From there, the inevitable backstabbing and rain of No’s should be treated as normal and nothing being accomplished is the preferred outcome instead of “ramming it through” with only 50 votes.

    “Bipartisanship” is a buzzword, not an feasible actionable plan. Remember the thread about “organic”? We’re at that point. Label it “bipartisan” for those who demand to see it on the package but don’t really care about the details. Is it strictly “bipartisan” in every sense of the word? Nope but it meets the bare minimum to qualify so good enough for government work!

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  7. wr says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: “I see Lucy Van Pelt placing the ball, and Charlie Brown is winding up for the kick…”

    Which is exactly what Nancy Pelosi said today. She’s all in favor of this bipartisan bill… but the House won’t be taking it up until the Senate also passes the reconciliation bill.

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  8. JohnSF says:

    It’s interesting how different some basic political cultural assumptions can be.

    In UK or most of Europe expecting a legislature to be “bipartisan” on matters of political contention (as opposed to basic ground rules, or national emergency response, or fairly minor bits of admin) would be met with utter bafflement.
    Of course they’re partisan: they are arenas of contest of political parties.

    And a win by one vote is a win, and that’s that.
    (Governments in Britain have numerous times that I can recall, had MPs at death’s door brought from hospital by ambulance to win votes!)

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  9. James Joyner says:

    @Jay L Gischer: @Kathy: So, I support abolishing the filibuster. But, under the current order, a 60-vote threshold is the norm and reconciliation is a bypassing of it—flipping democracy on its head, to be sure, but that’s the game. So, yes, using irregular order to get bills passed is in fact “ramming it through.” Especially when you have a 50-50 Senate with the VP acting as tiebreaker.

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  10. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, under the current order, a 60-vote threshold is the norm and reconciliation is a bypassing of it—flipping democracy on its head, to be sure, but that’s the game.

    This seems backwards to me. The filibuster prevents a vote from being taken. If a vote were taken and it was 50-50, then the VP can cast a tie breaking vote.

    Preventing a vote is not democracy, but it’s antithesis.

    Reconciliation is a parliamentary maneuver that bypasses a parliamentary rule. I don’t see that as flipping democracy on its head, but rather the reverse.

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  11. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    Especially when you have a 50-50 Senate with the VP acting as tiebreaker.

    And yet that is the 50+1 is Constitutional norm and standard unless specified, not 6o votes. The rule is recently adapted and changed the norm of what the filibuster means. If the game has a rule that allows a victory condition, you’re not cheating or bypassing anything but winning under the existing rules. In fencing, you usually win by having the most points as determine by the match type (5 or 15) usually by actually achieving those points via touches. However, if I force my opponent off the end of the strip, it’s a point for me even if I don’t touch them. It’s completely valid to win by forcing your opponent off the end once and then just stalling till time runs out. Atypical but within the rules; complaints about “cheating” or rule abuse will get rolled eyes or even a penalty from the ref because “normal” fencing doesn’t preclude abnormal efforts to gain a win.

    The Founding Fathers would be rather baffled by “ramming it through” as a notion. They would concede it met bare minimum to pass but that’s all that’s needed, anything else is a bonus including bipartisanship. If it’s allowed, then so be it – they were no strangers to governments constantly bickering and doing nothing due to gridlock. “Ramming it through” to them would have been the King/ POTUS declaring to hell with you all, you’ll do as I say aka Executive Orders. But winning by one vote is normally how it *works*…. till it was changed to crush dissent.

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  12. Unsympathetic says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    But it’s damn nice to see competence in the White House, again

    Competence is nothing less than “Hey R’s, this is passing whether you like it or not.”

    This is NOT competence. This is simply kowtowing to losers. Republicans lost – and still their priorities were obeyed in deliberate opposition to the wishes of the electorate.

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  13. Joe says:

    @Unsympathetic:

    This is NOT competence. This is simply kowtowing to losers.

    This analysis assumes that when Biden originally put forth a $2.2 trillion dollar proposal, that was really his assessment of the best and final offer. That’s not how anything works. To get roughly half (actually, slightly more) than his original demand is a pretty predictable outcome in a good faith negotiation. I am not concluding good faith on anyone’s part, just saying this looks to me as being well within the probability of what Biden could have gotten when he made his original proposal.

    Now let’s see if Lucy picks up the football again.

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  14. Barry says:

    I’ll believe this deal with (a) it actually passes, and (b) passes as a ‘big deal’, and not ‘here’s a nickel, kid – buy yourself some candy’.

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  15. Gustopher says:

    Obviously, Democrats could have gotten much more by either ramming this through on reconciliation or abolishing the filibuster. So, in that sense, it’s a loss. But it matters what the offset is.

    The group of 10 senators who came up with this are only 5 or so Republican votes.

    If they can’t deliver a full 10 Republicans, we should push through the original proposal, not this compromise.

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  16. Jay L Gischer says:

    I get that as a writer one likes to use colorful language. I personally, however, would prefer to reserve the description “rammed through” to describe a Supreme Court nomination done in a couple of weeks before the presidential election, for a justice who was nominated by a President who lost the popular vote by 3 million votes, and confirmed by a Senate majority of 51 votes that collectively represented probably 20 or 30 million fewer popular votes themselves.

    There is nothing unlawful or illegitimate about it. But this to me is the dictionary definition of “rammed through”. High speed, slim majorities, not really representing the will of the citizens.

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  17. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “But, under the current order, a 60-vote threshold is the norm and reconciliation is a bypassing of it—flipping democracy on its head, to be sure, but that’s the game. ”

    I suspect that the Venn diagram of people objecting to Biden pushing an infrastructure bill through by reconciliation and those objecting to Trump’s tax cut plan being enacted by reconciliation is pretty close to a null set.

  18. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Kathy: Im not so sure the Filibuster will go…for the simple fact that it is worth millions of dollars in fundraising.

    The dirty elephant in the room for all of this is the incentives for political parties to NEVER solve their best fundraising issues (whether its for or against). What are Republicans going to collect money on if Immigration were actually solved? Dem can’t let the Dreamer golden goose out of the cage. Statemates work for all involved. If there are real problems–they have personal wealth to buy space from it. This infrastructure deal, if it even happens, is going to massively underwhelm. These people are playing the majority of us.

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  19. Michael Cain says:

    …and reconciliation is a bypassing of it—flipping democracy on its head, to be sure, but that’s the game.

    Alternatively, reconciliation was a necessary rule change to remove the threat of 41 US Senators crashing the US (and global) economies if they weren’t given their way on other policies. In hindsight, tossing the filibuster entirely would almost certainly have been a better choice.

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  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy:

    And, while we’re at it, why not a supermajority of the EC to win?

    It’s certainly possible such a provision would suit the GOP. It would throw every election into the House for final determination.

  21. Ken_L says:

    Democrats are pretty much in the hands of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema when it comes to getting legislation passed. If they insist on a weird “bipartisanship” exercise before they’ll agree to pass a bunch of other stuff through reconciliation, that’s the way it has to be. The more interesting question is why some Republicans would go along with it; perhaps they feel the need to demonstrate a willingness to authorise some capital works to justify blanket opposition to all the rest.

  22. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy: @KM:@Jay L Gischer: I fully understand how undemocratic our system is. I’m merely describing it. Under our current rules, reconciliation is the workaround and the filibuster is the norm.

    1
  23. inhumans99 says:

    @Ken_L:
    Yesterday Kevin Drum had some commenters under his post on the subject that seemed to have nailed what Biden did when he made this announcement that the bill would be bi-partisan even though 5 Republicans are only on the record at this moment agreeing to vote for the bill. He makes the announcement to show that he was able to get some members of the GOP to say yes to the bill, and it puts pressure on McConnell and Manchin, as it makes it harder for Manchin to change his mind and abandon the bill because it is not “bi-partisan.”

    Biden is going to get his bill, the only question that remains is how much pressure is he going to have to apply to certain members of Congress to finally get it over the finish line, enough pressure to turn them into a diamond, or something a bit less dramatic.