Nobody knows infrastructure bills like Joe Biden. The Biden-backed $1.2T bipartisan infrastructure bill passed the Senate this week 69-30. Skeptics had scoffed even after a preliminary deal was announced by the White House in June. Republicans will never actually vote for it, they said, even though it was agreed to by a bipartisan group of 20 Senators.
They laughed when Biden explained his optimism by saying “Mitt Romney has never broken his word to me,” and expressed similar confidence in other Republican Senators involved in the deal. (Now the skeptics’ concerns weren’t entirely unfounded, as 3 Republican Senators who had participated some point in the negotiations, Jerry Moran (KS), Mike Rounds (SD), and Todd Young (IN), wound up voting against the bill. But the other 7 supported it, along with 12 more Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.)
Some claimed that Biden himself had gone back on his word when he floated the idea that he wouldn’t sign the bipartisan infrastructure package unless a broader, beyond traditional infrastructure social package supported only by Democrats was presented to him at the same time. But he quickly resolved that concern.
And he persevered. He gave a key assurance at a critical time – saying that he wouldn’t add physical infrastructure not endorsed by the bipartisan group to the Democrats-only $3.5T bill still being crafted to implement universal pre-kindergarten, Medicare expansion, free community college, paid family and medical leave, Obamacare extension, housing incentives, health equity measures, and other Democratic priorities. (That proposal itself cleared a major hurdle this week, when the Senate approved a budget resolution that is a first step in enabling the proposal to be passed through the budget reconciliation process.)
In the strange bedfellows department, straitlaced Rob Portman for the Republicans and out-there Kyrsten Sinema for the Democrats were the “lead Senators” on the infrastructure negotiations for their respective parties. However, it was clear from the participants’ comments that Biden was a key player. Publicly, he crisscrossed the country touting the need for the infrastructure bill. And behind the scenes, he cajoled, persuaded, and persisted.
Biden held private meetings with Republican and Democratic Senators in the Oval Office, asking them what they needed to have in the bill in order to be able to support it. He explained that “from the beginning, I’ve sat with people and listened to their positions – some in agreement with where I am and some in disagreement. So I think it’s a matter of listening. It’s part of democracy.” The final deal was negotiated by Portman and Counselor to the President Steve Ricchetti.
Steady and steadfast, Biden showed the will to get the deal done. In contrast, the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Negotiator,” Donald Trump, couldn’t get an infrastructure deal done. One of Trump’s aides whined that “[t]hey had four years to do an infrastructure deal with someone who knows infrastructure and actually builds buildings . . . if they actually wanted infrastructure they would have done it when President Trump was in there.”
The difference is that, unlike Joe Biden, Trump doesn’t know how to craft and pass legislation. (Trump’s only legislative “victory” was passing tax cuts for the rich, which is Republicans’ raison d’etre.)
As Palmer Report has highlighted, Trump threatened to take campaign action against any Republican Senators who voted for the bill – simply because Trump was so jealous of the prospect of Biden accomplishing what Trump could not do. Nineteen Republican Senators essentially responded, “Yeah, whatever,” and supported the bill anyway.
These Senators know that the bill is good for America – for jobs, for the economy, and for fostering economic growth in the future. Trump’s churlish fit persuaded no one. His petulance stands in stark contrast to President Biden’s cool confidence and competence that enabled him to take a big step towards delivering on his promise to Build Back Better.