United Kingdom

Joe Biden accepts weakened infrastructure spending deal after Republican opposition

Joe Biden on Thursday night accepted a watered down $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal with Republicans which did not include money for his climate change agenda and social programmes.

The White House said the plan was a vindication of his efforts to reach across the political aisle, but Left-wing Democrats called the agreement "paltry".

The agreement pushed him closer to achieving his top legislative priority of massive infrastructure spending, however, and the White House said it was a validation of his efforts to reach across the political aisle.

Mr Biden made a surprise appearance in front of the cameras in the White House driveway with a group of Republicans and Democrat senators who had been discussing a compromise with him.

The plan fell well short of the original $2.3 trillion investment advocated by Mr Biden, which he had later trimmed to $1.7 trillion.

It included money for roads, bridges and broadband internet but Republicans rejected his proposals for billions to fight climate change and for social programmes.

Mr Biden said not everyone got what they wanted, but other White House priorities could be pursued in separate legislation later.

Read more: Biden's battle to rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure

He said: "We've struck a deal. A group of senators - five Democrats and five Republicans - has come together and forged an infrastructure agreement that will create millions of American jobs.

"We have a deal. We’ve all agreed that none of us got what we all would’ve wanted. I clearly didn’t get all I wanted. But this reminds me of the days when we used to get an awful lot done up in the United States Congress."

Referring to the five Republicans he said: "They’ve given me their word. Where I come from that’s good enough for me."

In the 100-seat Senate Mr Biden had needed 60 votes to pass his infrastructure plan.

The Senate is currently split 50-50 and Kamala Harris, as Vice President, holds a casting vote.

Under a process known as budget reconciliation a bill with all Mr Biden's wishes could pass by a simple majority.

But Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the most conservative Democrat senator who is strongly committed to bipartisanship, had refused to back anything that didn't have at least some Republican support.

Mr Manchin was part of the group that agreed the deal.

It followed months of tense negotiations between the White House Congress.

Some Democrats criticised the agreement, with Senator Richard Blumenthal calling it “way too small, paltry, pathetic."

Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist senator, has previously proposed a separate $6 trillion bill including wider Democrat priorities.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat leader in the House of Representatives, said both measures would be pursued in Congress in a "two track" approach.

She said: "We won't get enough votes to pass either unless we have enough votes to pass both."

Democrat senator Elizabeth Warren said: "We have to have the whole thing, not just cleave off a little piece of it."

Mr Biden said he wanted both bills on his desk, adding: "If only one comes to me I’m not signing."
 

The major hurdle between Democrats and Republicans had been how to pay for infrastructure improvements.

Mr Biden demanded there be no new taxes on anyone making less than $400,000, while Republicans were unwilling to raise corporation tax.

Susan Collins, the moderate Republican senator from Maine, who was part of the group, said: "We're still refining the details, but from my perspective, it is paid for. We’ve agreed on the price tag, the scope, and how to pay for it."

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, had not yet decided whether to back the deal but was said to be “open-minded and he's listening”.

The US Chamber of Commerce applauded the bipartisan agreement.

Mr Biden said it would create millions of jobs, would “close the American digital divide” and was the largest public transport investment in US history.

He said: "We're in a race with China, which is investing tens of billions of dollars in its infrastructure. We have to move and we have to move fast. This bill signals to the world we can function and do significant things.

"It represents that American democracy can deliver. We have reaffirmed once again that we are the United States of America.”

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