The initial plan released by the White House was a nonstarter for Republicans. The vast majority of the spending was not initiatives traditionally considered infrastructure such as roads and bridges, they said, and proposed corporate tax hikes
In the face of wide Republican opposition, the White House indicated that Biden is open to compromise.
“Debate is welcome. Compromise is inevitable. Changes are certain,” Biden said of the plan on Wednesday. ”We'll be open to good ideas and good-faith negotiations.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday added: “We want bipartisanship every step of the way.” She also said that there could be two bills, one on infrastructure and one on the “care economy,” rather than lumping issues such as paid leave into a bill with bridge-building funds.
But a key group of 10 Senate Republicans, those who sought to broker a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill and met with Biden at the White House only to watch Democrats pass the bill without any Republican support, had a “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” reaction to Biden.
Ten Republicans is the magic number that would need to join with Democrats to pass legislation and bypass the Senate filibuster. Democrats used budget reconciliation, a process that allows the Senate to pass a bill with 51 votes instead of the usual 60-vote threshold, to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan without the support of any Republicans earlier this year.
But top Democrats are not ruling out using the method to ram the legislation through.
“If we have to go to reconciliation, that’s a lever, but I hope it’s not something that we need to do,” Pelosi said on Thursday.
Louisiana Republican Rep. Mike Johnson, vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, said in a podcast earlier this month that if Biden was moving to try to pass a bill with the plan as-is, “that would be a great tragedy.”
“One of the few issues perhaps, that you could still forge a bipartisan consensus on is infrastructure because everyone needs it in their districts,” Johnson said.
Members of the Democratic Party have expressed frustration with the White House opening a negotiation with Republicans.
Internal party dynamics are set to complicate Democratic leaders’ attempts at bipartisanship.
The 95-member Congressional Progressive Caucus on Friday released a list of priorities for the American Jobs Plan, including universal childcare and paid family leave, that leaves little room for negotiation with Republicans.
“We agree that it’s time for transformative change, and we look forward to working with the Biden administration to expand on their proposal and ensure that the American Jobs Plan goes big to truly meet the needs of the public,” Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington told Politico.
If congressional progressives flex their power, Biden White House and Democratic leaders could be caught in the tough spot between trying to keep their promise to pursue bipartisan solutions while risking losing support from their own core base.