A group of Republican senators said Sunday they expect to back a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure package after President Joe Biden briefly put the fate of the bill into question.
Biden on Thursday said he would not sign the infrastructure deal if it did not come "in tandem" with a larger package focused on Democratic priorities, such as battling climate change and increasing access to child care.
Biden changed his stance Saturday, issuing a statement that he would pursue passage of the infrastructure deal "with vigor." Biden said "the bipartisan agreement does not preclude Republicans from attempting to defeat" the Democrat-backed package he has referred to as the American Families Plan.
The bipartisan package seeks to provide $579 billion in new spending to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, public transportation, water systems and broadband access. It would cost $973 billion over five years or $1.2 trillion over eight years.
The other proposal would spend trillions of dollars to also improve "human infrastructure," including by increasing health care access, alleviating child poverty and providing paid family leave. The plan would be funded by tax increases on corporations and the wealthy. Democrats have said they aimed to pass it through the budget reconciliation process, which requires a simple majority Senate vote instead of the usual 60 votes needed.
Republicans said Sunday that with Biden’s clarification they can continue to support the bipartisan public works measure, which they agreed is needed to fix the nation’s infrastructure. They expressed confidence that Biden would keep to his word and not make the bill’s success contingent upon the separate reconciliation bill.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the lead negotiators on the package, said on ABC’s "This Week" that he was "blindsided" by Biden’s comments Thursday.
Portman said he was glad the bipartisan deal and the Democratic reconciliation bill have been "delinked, and it's very clear that we can move forward with a bipartisan bill that's broadly popular, not just among members of Congress, but the American people."
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who also helped negotiate the infrastructure package, told NBC’s "Meet the Press" he believes Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will support the deal "if it continues to come together as is."
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he trusts Biden to sign the measure if it comes across his desk. Republicans will support the plan to fix infrastructure, airports, roads, bridges and railroads but not one that includes trillions of dollars in new spending or a tax increase.
"Don't raise the taxes, fix infrastructure, we can get the job done," Romney said on CNN’s "State of the Union."