Mitch McConnell rebukes Democrats for holding infrastructure 'hostage'

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lambasted the Democrats’ congressional leadership on Monday, accusing them of holding a bipartisan infrastructure package “hostage” so they can pass a separate big-spending social bill along party lines.

The Kentucky Republican released a statement rebuking Democratic Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California for linking the two issues.

President Biden initially sought to do the same last week, even pledging to veto the bipartisan deal if it arrived alone on his desk. The president, though, was forced to walk back the veto threat over the weekend after extensive backlash from the Senate Republicans with whom he had been negotiating.

“The president has appropriately delinked a potential bipartisan infrastructure bill from the massive, unrelated tax-and-spend plans that Democrats want to pursue on a partisan basis,” said Mr. McConnell. “Now I am calling on President Biden to engage Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi and make sure they follow his lead.”

After months of negotiations, Mr. Biden and a group of 11 bipartisan senators agreed on the outlines of a massive infrastructure package last week. The deal would invest $1.2 trillion towards upgrading the nation’s roads and bridges over the next eight years.

Progressive Democrats, however, say the proposal does not go far enough, and drops many of the priorities included in Mr. Biden’soriginal $2.2 trillion infrastructure proposal. Instead, many on the left are pining for a comprehensive package that includes “human infrastructure,” such as job training for felons and money to combat climate change.

Given such views, progressives say they will oppose the more targeted deal unless their priorities get incorporated into a bigger spending bill.

Since the latter cannot garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, progressives are demanding it pass via budget reconciliation. The process allows spending bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes.

Aiding the efforts by progressives is Mrs. Pelosi, who last week vowed to block the infrastructure bill from coming to the floor of the House before the Senate moved a second spending package via reconciliation.

“Let me be really clear on this: We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill,” the speaker said.

Mr. McConnell says such threats amount to extortion and a breach of the “bipartisan good faith” GOP lawmakers have experienced so far.

“Unless Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi walk back their threats that they will refuse to send the president a bipartisan infrastructure bill unless they also separately pass trillions of dollars for unrelated tax hikes, wasteful spending and Green New Deal socialism, then President Biden’s walk-back of his veto threat would be a hollow gesture,” said Mr. McConnell. “The president cannot let congressional Democrats hold a bipartisan bill hostage over a separate and partisan process.”

Mr. McConnell‘s remarks came one day after Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, admitted that the majority of GOP lawmakers were now hesitant to back the infrastructure deal.

“Well, I have talked to a number of members of the bipartisan group. They are all reluctant now to move forward,” said Mr. Barrasso during a Sunday appearance on Fox News. “They’re going to need more assurances from the president that there is no link, no connection between the bipartisan bill and this bill that the Democrats want to do.”

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