Lindsey Graham's Four-Letter Reaction to Biden's Infrastructure Agreement with Some Republicans
"If he's gonna tie them together, he can forget it!" the South Carolina senator said of the White House's plan on passing two major spending bills. "I'm not doing that. That's extortion!"
President Joe Biden was all smiles when he walked out of the White House on Thursday, celebrating a handshake agreement with a group of five Republican senators who said they would support a sweeping $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal.
But not every GOP senator is on board with the deal Biden, 78, says he struck - especially not the president's former longtime friend, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Graham, 65, told Politico that he thinks Biden made each of the five Republican senators who met with him at the White House look like "a f------ idiot" because of what Graham calls a massive asterisk the president placed on their agreement afterward.
Biden says he want to pass the historic infrastructure bill along with even larger spending package that includes the American Families Plan - an additional $1.8 trillion in spending on improved health care, education and climate change efforts.
"If this is the only thing that comes to me, I'm not signing it," Biden said, according to The New York Times, adding the two bills are "in tandem" in his view, with the latter, larger bill expected to be passed via a special process called reconciliation that does not require votes from the Republican minority.
Biden's caveat came as a surprise to those like Graham who, according to Politico, says he's now backing "out" of the deal, after having been one of 11 GOP senators to come around to support Biden's slimmed $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.
"If he's gonna tie them together, he can forget it!" Graham said. "I'm not doing that. That's extortion!"
What Do Republicans Want?
Republicans bartering with Biden's proposal say they want to limit spending and avoid large tax increases, particularly those that reverse tax cuts under the Trump administration.
Biden had proposed to raise on corporations and wealthy Americans who earn $400,000 or above each year.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, currently the most powerful Republican in the country, called Biden's two-part plan a "runaway spending train," according to The Wall Street Journal.
After failing to earn support for his original $4 trillion spending package, which included an infrastructure plan and the American Families Plan, Biden fell back on a $1.7 trillion infrastructure offer.
Last month, Republicans countered with a $928 billion offer before the two sides landed on Thursday's $1.2 trillion agreement.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the counter offer a "constructive" response, while the back-and-forth proposals left GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito saying she felt "optimistic" both sides could meet somewhere in the middle.
After the agreement on Thursday, Psaki told PEOPLE the White House viewed the deal as a "huge" breakthrough.
"This package contains two-thirds of the resources proposed in the initial package, but he wanted to show he's willing to compromise," she said.
And What Do Democrats Want?
As Graham's criticism underscores, Biden is calling on Congress' narrow Democratic majority to pass both a narrower bipartisan agreement with Republican support and then a larger spending package via reconciliation, without them but including some major liberal priorities.
First is the new infrastructure plan the bipartisan group of lawmakers agreed upon Thursday, which the goes well beyond fixing roads and bridges and includes massive funding projects to increase internet access, improve railways and other public transportation, create more charging stations nationwide for electric vehicles, and protect the country's infrastructure against future cyber attacks and extreme weather.
Second, as Biden announced Thursday, Democrats are hoping to pass the American Families Plan, which would provide two free years of preschool and two years of community college, provide "direct" financial support for families with children who would also get a tax break, and expanding Obamacare in an effort Biden says would hopefully make healthcare and prescription costs lower.
"For me, investment in our physical and human infrastructure are inextricably intertwined," Biden said Thursday, according to CNN. "Both make us better off and stronger."
The White House calls this plan a "two-track system," though it has major logistic and political obstacles.
Thursday's benchmark agreement doesn't guarantee the infrastructure bill will pass, given Biden's vow to only sign both bills into law and the discontentment from Republicans like Graham. Biden will need 10 GOP votes to overcome a filibuster.
Thursday's spoken agreement also didn't come without its own intra-party controversy among Democrats.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the progressive wing of the party, criticized the meeting at the White House for only including white lawmakers.
"The diversity of this 'bipartisan coalition' pretty perfectly conveys which communities get centered and which get left behind when leaders prioritize bipartisan dealmaking over inclusive lawmaking (which gives priority to delivering the most impact possible for the most people)," she tweeted.
So, What's Next?
Politico reports that lawmakers likely won't reach a conclusion until the fall, pointing to late September, when many infrastructure programs expire, as a likely deadline for trying to pass both pieces of legislation.
"I clearly didn't get all I wanted. They gave more than I think maybe what they were planning to give in the first place," Biden said Thursday. "But this reminds me of the days when we used to get an awful lot done up in the United States Congress."