Joe Biden Accused of Holding Infrastructure Deal 'Hostage' in Fresh GOP Showdown

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has accused President Joe Biden of holding a bipartisan infrastructure bill "hostage" just days after senators from both parties agreed a deal.

Cassidy is the latest Republican to criticize Biden's plan to introduce another measure in tandem with the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework that would fund "human infrastructure" that Democrats are seeking.

The president has said he will not sign either proposal into law unless both are approved by Congress - comments that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has interpreted as threatening a veto.

Cassidy gave an interview to New Orleans' Fox 8 on Friday and criticized Biden for linking the two measures.

"So there's a lot of conversations taking place right now as to what the president meant," Cassidy said.

Cassidy suggested it was possible that Biden misspoke when he linked the proposals in remarks on Thursday.

"But that was not the understanding as we began upon these good faith negotiations," Cassidy said.

"So I'm hoping we continue in good faith and it won't be as if we crafted something just to give the president a point of leverage to get something that Republicans disagree with."

Cassidy went further in a tweet on Friday. Sharing a video of his comments, he wrote: "Democratic leadership and @POTUS holding the historic bipartisan infrastructure agreement hostage was never discussed with us & was not part of the deal we agreed to."

His remarks are part of a fresh showdown between Senate Republicans and the White House just days after they announced that a deal had been reached on infrastructure.

Democratic leadership and @POTUS holding the historic bipartisan infrastructure agreement hostage was never discussed with us & was not part of the deal we agreed to.

— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (@SenBillCassidy) June 26, 2021

On Thursday, Biden told reporters: "I expect that in the coming months this summer, before the fiscal year is over, that we will have voted on this bill—the infrastructure bill—as well as voted on the budget resolution."

"But if only one comes to me, I'm not signing it. It's in tandem," the president said.

Other Republican senators have also expressed concern about linking the infrastructure bill with the second measure - which would likely be passed without Republican votes using the budget reconciliation process and would include measures like funding for home health care and child care.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who was a key figure in negotiating the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, told the Associated Press on Friday: "I've been on the phone with the White House, my Democratic colleagues, my Republican colleagues, all darn day."

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was more emphatic in comments to Politico on Thursday evening, calling supporting the two-track proposal "a suicide mission." He was one of 11 GOP senators who had previously signed up to a bipartisan framework.

"If he's gonna tie them together, he can forget it!" Graham said. "I'm not doing that. That's extortion! I'm not going to do that. The Dems are being told you can't get your bipartisan work product passed unless you sign on to what the left wants, and I'm not playing that game."

McConnell accused Biden of threatening to veto the infrastructure bill, arguing that this meant the president wasn't "serious" about passing the legislation.

"Less than two hours after publicly commending our colleagues and actually endorsing the bipartisan agreement, the President took the extraordinary step of threatening to veto it," McConnell said from the Senate floor on Thursday.

At least 10 Republican votes will be needed to reach the 60 Senate votes required to overcome the filibuster and pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework but linking the bill to a separate measure appears to put GOP support at risk.

Newsweek has asked the White House and Senator Bill Cassidy for comment.

Joe Biden Hosts the President of Afghanistan
U.S. President Joe Biden makes brief remarks while hosting Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, in the Oval Office at the White House June 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. Republicans have criticized Biden for linking a bipartisan infrastructure bill to a separate measure on "human infrastructure." Pete Marovich/Getty Images