WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he hoped to strike a bipartisan deal on the more traditional elements of his infrastructure plan, but that he was willing to pass parts of his proposal that address the social safety net without Republican support.
“I want to get a bipartisan deal on as much as we can get a bipartisan deal on. And that means roads, bridges, broadband, infrastructure. But I am not giving up on the fact that we have 2 million women not able to go back to work because all the day care centers are closed or out of business,” Biden said in an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell.
“I want to know what can we agree on, and let’s see if we can get an agreement to kick-start this, and then fight over what’s left, and see if I can get it done without Republicans if need be," Biden continued.
Biden’s comments came shortly after he hosted Democratic and Republican congressional leaders at the White House for a meeting on his $2.2 trillion American Jobs Plan, marking his first sit-down with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell since taking office in January.
Republicans have criticized Biden’s infrastructure plan for being too broad and have said that the president’s proposal to partially reverse the 2017 tax cuts on wealthy Americans to pay for his plan is a nonstarter. Republicans have also complained that Biden is not sincere about his desire to reach across the aisle.
Biden said that how to pay for his plan was not the focus of conversation during Wednesday's meeting, but rather "what constitutes infrastructure."
The president does not need Republican support to pass his American Jobs Plan if he can hold together all 50 Democratic votes in the Senate and maintain most of his party's votes in the House. But the White House has placed a premium on getting a bipartisan piece of legislation signed into law, and Biden has stated on a number of occasions that he is eager and willing to negotiate.
Biden also met this week with moderate Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, whose support he is trying to lock up for the bill. On Thursday, he will meet with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who is working on a bipartisan counterproposal to the measure, along with five other Republican senators.
The White House has said it hopes to make progress on the plan by Memorial Day with the goal of signing the plan into law by the end of the summer.
The president's interview aired on MSNBC before a town hall on Covid-19 vaccination, and he expressed optimism about reaching is his goal of administering at least one vaccine dose to 70 percent of adult Americans by July 4.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website that 58.7 percent of people 18 years or over have gotten at least one dose.
"They're showing up. All this stuff about vaccine hesitancy; the truth of the matter is, more and more and more people are getting the vaccine," Biden said. "And so, I’ve never believed that there would be a large percentage of Americans who wouldn’t get the vaccine."
Asked about Wednesday's vote by House Republicans to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from a caucus leadership role following her criticism of former President Donald Trump and those spreading the lie the election was stolen, Biden largely avoided weighing in on the politics.
"The Liz Cheney-McCarthy thing is above my pay grade," the president said, referring to McCarthy, the House minority leader.
"I mean, I have enough trouble figuring out my own party all the time, let alone the Republicans," Biden said.