On Infrastructure, Biden Tests the Limits of Having It Both Ways

His agreement with Senate centrists, including at least five Republicans, includes just under $600 billion in new federal spending, focused on physical infrastructure like highways and broadband. In the pursuit of enough Republican votes to clear a Senate filibuster, the deal excludes all the president’s proposals to more heavily tax corporations and the rich, much of his push to curb climate change and all his proposed investments in the “human infrastructure” of education, paid leave and child and elder care.

“Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal, and that’s what it means to compromise,” Mr. Biden told reporters in the East Room. “And it reflects something important: It reflects consensus. The heart of democracy requires consensus.”

That consensus represents a small slice of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda, and liberals were quick to call it insufficient. That is why Mr. Biden also said on Thursday that he would not sign the bipartisan agreement unless it was accompanied by a second bill, probably passed with only Democratic votes and funded by some tax increases on corporations and high earners, that would spend heavily on the parts of his agenda that were cut out of the deal at the insistence of Republicans.

“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Mr. Biden said, just moments after extolling the virtues of consensus. “It’s in tandem.”

Congressional leaders echoed him. “All parties understand, we won’t get enough votes to pass either unless we have enough votes to pass both,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor. “The bottom line is both tracks need to make progress concurrently.”

Top Republicans were quick to denounce the two-step. “That’s not the way to show you’re serious about getting a bipartisan outcome,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said on Thursday. “So I hope our colleagues can recover and get their good-faith efforts back on track.”

White House officials, though, say the president made clear to Republicans throughout the negotiations that he was pursuing both a bipartisan deal and a second bill to pass only with Democratic votes through a process known as budget reconciliation. They do not expect Republicans to walk away from the agreement struck this week.

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