(CNN)GOP opposition is hardening over a massive infrastructure plan and a revamp of policing laws, scrambling the prospects of two of President Joe Biden’s top domestic priorities at a crucial juncture on Capitol Hill.
Republicans are pushing back at Biden’s efforts to tie a bipartisan Senate deal on infrastructure with a larger package of Democratic priorities, warning that such a tactic will cause GOP support to crater and could torpedo the $1.2 trillion accord reached between the two parties. And several members of the group of 11 Republicans who signed off on the bipartisan deal are upset at Biden’s tactics, privately warning that they too could walk away from the deal, according to GOP sources.
On policing, a number of Republicans say the rise in crime across the US has caused them to rethink support for a bipartisan effort to overhaul law enforcement practices — just as the GOP is again settling on a “law-and-order” message in its push to retake Congress in next year’s midterms.
Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the House, told CNN that he opposes any changes to the qualified immunity standard that currently protects police from civil lawsuits, an issue that is central in the negotiations and will almost certainly be addressed if a deal is ultimately reached.
“No,” Scalise said when asked if he were open to any changes to the standard at all. “It’s a protection for good cops, and why would you want to undermine that?”
The Louisiana Republican also reiterated a campaign theme that Republicans in the House used successfully in key races in 2020 and are poised to use again next year.
“It seems like Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi just wants to go with more of a defund police approach, where they go after qualified immunity, which would really be devastating to police officers on the beat,” Scalise said.
On Friday, the group of 11 Republicans who signed onto the bipartisan infrastructure agreement met virtually to discuss how they wanted to handle Biden’s comments to tie the bipartisan bill to the Democratic-only proposal, a Senate aide familiar with the matter told CNN.
Many in the group were irritated about having stuck their necks out to back Biden’s agreement in the first place and having just been at the White House less than 24 hours before. Agreeing to the bipartisan deal was always going to put them at odds with some of their conservative colleagues, and they viewed the President’s words as having undercut their good-faith deal.
In an afternoon conference call, GOP senators continued to express concerns over the White House’s handling of the bipartisan infrastructure deal, according to a source familiar with the call.
“Frustrations boiled on the call,” the source said. “Members were dumbfounded by the White House press briefing.”
The source was referring to Friday’s briefing where White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not walk back Biden’s warning that the Democratic-only reconciliation bill must pass Congress before he’d sign a bipartisan deal into law.
“That hasn’t been a secret,” Psaki told reporters Friday about Biden’s desire to see both packages signed into law. “He hasn’t said it quietly. He hasn’t even whispered it. He said it very much out loud to all of you as we have said many times from here.”
GOP support cratering on infrastructure
Republicans in the Senate have the power to derail both the bipartisan infrastructure deal and policing legislation, given that the measures would need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster attempt in the 50-50 chamber. But many Democrats are unhappy that their priorities were left out of the bipartisan plan, prompting Democratic leaders to set the stage for moving a much larger plan — that could cost anywhere from $4 trillion-$6 trillion — through the so-called budget reconciliation process, which allows legislation to pass in the Senate along straight party-lines.
To win over her more liberal members behind the bipartisan deal, Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to hold up that proposal unt
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