It was only a matter of time before President Joe Biden’s White House began slowly backing away from its commitment to reach a bipartisan deal on its massive infrastructure proposal.
Biden signaled that he’s willing to “change course” on how the legislation will be passed if Democrats and Republicans won’t meet somewhere in the middle in the ongoing, contentious negotiations, according to the Washington Examiner.
What did he say?
White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond dropped the bomb about Biden’s current thought process on the state of the negotiations, relaying the president’s understated — albeit obvious — intention of passing an infrastructure plan, no matter what path Democrats take to reach that goal.
“He wants a deal. He wants it soon, but if there’s meaningful negotiations taking place in a bipartisan manner, he’s willing to let that play out. But again, he will not let inaction be the answer. And when he gets to the point where it looks like that is inevitable, you’ll see him change course,” Richmond said.
At the crux of the impasse between the parties is how the word “infrastructure” is being defined.
Republicans argue that infrastructure should be actual, hard infrastructure — such as roads, bridges, and the power grid. They have outright rejected the Democrats’ version of the bill, which they argue is primarily the Democrats’ wish list on a whole range of issues that comes with an astonishing price tag soaring into the trillions.
The Biden administration has recognized the GOP’s hesitation over the price of the bill, which resulted in the White House dropping the number from $2.25 trillion to $1.7 trillion on Friday. There’s still a massive gap, however, as the Republican version of the bill comes in at $568 billion.
What does “change course” mean?
While he didn’t say it outright, Biden’s threat to “change course” on how the bill is passed likely points to a method that Democrats, who control a slim majority in both chambers of Congress, can use to pass the bill without worrying about Republican support.
The procedural tool that Democrats could use to pass the legislative package is known as budget reconciliation, which is how they passed Biden’s latest COVID-19 relief bill, given the lack of bipartisan support.
Passing it through budget reconciliation would undoubtedly strip a portion of the bill, given the strict criteria required to use such a method, but ultimately it would virtually guarantee a version of the bill being sent to the president’s desk.
According to Fox Business, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) indicated that negotiations are progressing, adding that Democrats “should continue to pursue negotiations as long as they are real and substantive.”
It appears that with the clock ticking down rapidly until Republicans have a realistic chance to secure majority control of the House in the 2022 midterms, Democrats will not hesitate to take the path of least resistance if they feel that time is no longer on their side.