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McConnell calls on Democratic leaders to follow Biden on separate infrastructure and spending bills

Washington — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday called on Democratic leaders in Congress to commit to separating a bipartisan infrastructure deal reached last week from a sweeping spending bill that's expected to pass with party-line support after President Biden clarified the two are not linked.

"Republicans have been negotiating in bipartisan good faith to meet the real infrastructure needs of our nation," McConnell, of Kentucky, said in a statement. "The president cannot let congressional Democrats hold a bipartisan bill hostage over a separate and partisan process."

Mr. Biden rankled Senate Republicans last Thursday just hours after he announced a deal had been reached between the White House and a bipartisan group of 10 senators on a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. The plan is more narrow than the president's sweeping package put forth earlier this year and focuses on "traditional" infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, railways and broadband.

After he touted the agreement, Mr. Biden suggested he would only accept the bipartisan legislation if a more sweeping measure encompassing many of his infrastructure priorities also makes it to his desk. That legislation, which will be passed through a process known as budget reconciliation, is expected to garner only Democratic support and will include his policies on child care, education and health care, known as the American Families Plan.

Amid the backlash from Republicans, Mr. Biden issued a statement Saturday attempting to clarify his approach to the two bills and stressed he was not issuing a veto threat on the bipartisan framework.

"To be clear: our bipartisan agreement does not preclude Republicans from attempting to defeat my Families Plan; likewise, they should have no objections to my devoted efforts to pass that Families Plan and other proposals in tandem. We will let the American people — and the Congress — decide," the president said.

McConnell on Monday said Mr. Biden "appropriately delinked" the bipartisan infrastructure bill from the larger spending package, which does not need Republican support to pass. 

"Now I am calling on President Biden to engage Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi and make sure they follow his lead," he said.

Unless Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "walk back their threats" on conditioning the two measures together, McConnell said, "then President Biden's walk-back of his veto threat would be a hollow gesture."

Democrats involved in negotiations over the bipartisan infrastructure agreement acknowledge there will be a more sweeping measure taken up through reconciliation, and Pelosi last week stressed the two pieces of legislation must proceed on parallel tracks.

"We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill," Pelosi told reporters during a press conference Thursday. "If there is no bipartisan bill, then we'll just go when the Senate passes a reconciliation bill."

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