Dems keep one foot out the door on infrastructure negotiations, move to start reconciliation and abandon GOP

Democrats in Congress are moving ahead with the budget reconciliation process that will allow them to move “everything” in President Biden’s agenda through Congress while circumventing a GOP filibuster if bipartisan negotiations don’t come together — or even if they do. 

“So, we are proceeding now as to reconciliation instructions, we’re assuming right now that everything will be done by reconciliation — everything meaning the jobs plan and the families plan,” House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said Tuesday. He was referring Biden’s American Families Plan and American Jobs Plan, which combined total about $4 trillion. 

“So that doesn’t preclude a bipartisan agreement,” Yarmuth continued. Whatever is in the bipartisan agreement would simply be taken out of the broader reconciliation effort, Yarmuth said. But, he emphasized, Democrats are “assuming everything” will have to be done through reconciliation. 

House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., center, is flanked by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., left, and Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., at a news conference ahead of the vote on the Democrat's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Yarmuth said Tuesday Democrats are "assuming" they will have to pass all of President Biden's agenda through reconciliation. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., center, is flanked by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., left, and Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., at a news conference ahead of the vote on the Democrat’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Yarmuth said Tuesday Democrats are “assuming” they will have to pass all of President Biden’s agenda through reconciliation. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

DEM SENATORS CALL BIPARTISANSHIP A ‘TRAP,’ URGE SCHUMER TO ‘GO OUR OWN WAY’ ON CLIMATE INFRASTRUCTURE BILL

The comments indicate that even as negotiations continue between the White House and a bipartisan group of senators on a potential infrastructure bill, Democrats have lost patience and are ready to strike out on their own. Democrats are not ready to declare talks with Republicans dead, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday. But they are going to act on “two tracks” to get the Biden agenda through Congress.

“One track is bipartisan and the second track pulls in other elements of Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, which will be considered even if it doesn’t have bipartisan support,” Schumer said at a press conference Tuesday. 

“Both are moving forward,” Schumer added. The majority leader said he is meeting Wednesday with Senate Budget Committee Democrats to give them instructions on how reconciliation should proceed. He added that Democrats hope to get both reconciliation and the possible bipartisan bill done in July — a tight timeline for what are likely to be two massive legislative efforts. 

House Democratic Conference Vice Chair Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., also said Democrats are happy to move ahead with or without Republicans — but that they intend to enact all of Biden’s agenda. He noted that top Biden adviser Steve Ricchetti said the White House is giving bipartisan efforts between seven and 10 days before abandoning them totally. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters after final votes going into the Memorial Day recess, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, May 28, 2021. Schumer is meeting Wednesday with Senate Budget Committee Democrats to discus budget reconciliation.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters after final votes going into the Memorial Day recess, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, May 28, 2021. Schumer is meeting Wednesday with Senate Budget Committee Democrats to discus budget reconciliation.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“We will operate under the assumption that Republicans will work with us in good faith but we will carry on the business of making sure that we pass good policy, and that could be through other means,” Aguilar said. 

Some Democrats, however, are warning leaders in their party that bipartisanship is a “trap” and promising to withhold their votes for a bipartisan infrastructure deal if they don’t get guarantees climate change will be addressed in a reconciliation package. 

“There absolutely has to be a guaranteed deal that climate is built into,” Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said Tuesday. “We can’t have dessert before the main course. The main course is a climate infrastructure bill. We need roads, we need bridges, we need many other things… But we can’t leave the climate behind.” 

“If there is no climate there is no deal,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., added. 

Republicans, meanwhile, said they are not surprised about Democrats’ push to force through Biden’s massive spending proposals on party lines, which will begin in earnest with Schumer’s meeting with Budget Committee Democrats Wednesday. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared to say he is still open to a possible deal on infrastructure, even if Republicans are expected to try to block nearly everything else Democrats try to pass.  

“I think the majority leader’s indicated there will be a reconciliation effort. I think what they’re wrestling with is what will it contain,” McConnell said Tuesday. “So we are anticipating at some point getting a reconciliation bill. I guess what we will find out soon is whether there is an additional bipartisan effort to address a subject that a lot of us would like to address.”

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McConnell added that he is “listening and hopeful” on bipartisan negotiations but that Republicans cannot support a bill that either revisits the 2017 tax cuts or is not credibly paid for another way. 

The complex maneuvering on infrastructure and Biden’s spending plans comes as Congress faces several other major tasks in the coming months as well. Negotiators for a police reform bill are expected to unveil their proposal soon, Democrats are plotting their next move for how to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol after Republicans blocked a Jan. 6 commission bill in the Senate, and a debt limit fight is looming when the current suspension ends on July 31. 

“We’d like to find common ground with the other side,” House Democratic Conference Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said. “But if the obstructionists prevail… then we are going to have to proceed to get it done through the vehicle that is available to us through reconciliation.”

Fox News’ Jason Donner and Caroline McKee contributed to this report.

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