Sen. Mitt Romney said he takes President Biden “at his word” that he will sign a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal after walking back a threat to veto the legislation, but questioned whether Democrats can get on board with the package.
“I do take the president at his word. And over the weeks and weeks of negotiations with Democrats and with the White House on an infrastructure bill, the president’s other agenda was never linked to the infrastructure effort,” Romney (R-Utah) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Romney, one of the bipartisan group of lawmakers who announced a deal last Thursday at the White House, touted the agreement as funding “true infrastructure” – bridges, roads and electric utilities – without a tax hike.
He said Republicans are on board with the infrastructure deal, but wondered about the commitment from some progressive Democrats who are pressing to include more spending on climate change and other social programs.
“The real challenge is whether the Democrats can get their act together and get it on his desk. And I think the battle going on is not with Republicans. Republicans are going to support true infrastructure that doesn’t raise taxes,” the senator said.
“But Democrats want to do a lot of other things, and I think they’re the ones that are having a hard time deciding how to proceed,” he said.
Hours after standing outside the White House with the bipartisan group on Thursday and proclaiming “we have a deal,” Biden threatened not to sign it unless it came to his desk along with a larger spending plan that Democrats intended to pass through reconciliation.
The maneuver would allow Democrats – who control the 50-50 chamber by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ vote – to pass it with a simple majority and bypass the filibuster, which would require 60 votes.
Biden’s comments brought blowback from progressive Democrats who wanted more spending and Republicans who felt the president had duped them into agreeing to the infrastructure bill.
By Saturday, Biden released a new statement in an effort to clear up the confusion.
“My comments created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intent,” he said.
“I intend to pursue the passage of that plan, which Democrats and Republicans agreed to on Thursday, with vigor,” Biden added. “It would be good for the economy, good for our country, good for our people. I fully stand behind it without reservation or hesitation.”
Romney said without the statement, Republicans would haven’t been able to support it.
“Had it not been clarified and had he not made it clear that these are two different measures – that the infrastructure bill stands on its own, and that his other agenda items, those things stand their own as well – had he not made that clear, it think it would have been very, very hard for Republicans to say yeah we we support this,” he said.
“We’re not going to sign up for a multi-trillion dollar spending spree. We’re not going to sign up for dramatic increases in taxes on the American economy and the employers that put Americans back to work,” Romney said.