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Jason Furman (left) and Larry Summers. Photos: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg (left); Jim Davis/The Boston Globe

Some Democratic economists who questioned the size of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill — including Larry Summers — are now offering their full-throated support for his bipartisan infrastructure proposal.

Why it matters: Support for the package, undercut when Biden issued a veto threat last week, is fickle. Endorsements from both the political and policy worlds will be key to convincing nervous lawmakers to back or stick with it.

  • "The bipartisan infrastructure proposal provides an epic opportunity for productivity enhancement," Summers, a former Democratic Treasury secretary and director of the National Economic Council, told Axios.
  • "It should take less time — and not more time — to get from Washington to Boston than it did four decades ago," he said.
  • Jason Furman, a chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama, called the proposed $579 billion in new spending "a step in the right direction.”
  • “It would not be inflationary because the investments are spread out over time, mostly paid for and would expand the productive capacity of the economy.”

The big picture: With inflation exceeding expectations for the last few months, Republicans have been blaming Biden’s March $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan for fueling price spikes.

  • They've even borrowed critiques from Summers to make their point.
  • Sen. John Thune (R-S.D) took to the Senate floor this month to note “more than one liberal economist warned about the size of Democrats’ spending plan."
  • While Summers has irked the White House with his persistent inflation warnings, Biden and other officials continue to seek his counsel and listen to his views.

Driving the news: The bipartisan deal — which Biden both endorsed and threatened to reject in the same breath — is hanging by a thread, just days after the group of 21 Democratic and Republican senators celebrated a deal.

  • Biden spoiled the party by saying he viewed the $579 billion package as linked to a second, potentially $6 trillion-dollar package Democrats want to pass through the partisan reconciliation process.
  • The president tried to clean up the mess in a rare Saturday statement that all but contradicted his Thursday threat. “The bottom line is this: I gave my word to support the infrastructure plan, and that's what I intend to do," he said.

What they're saying:

  • “It was a surprise, to say the least, that those two got linked, and I’m glad they’ve now been de-linked," Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "It’s very clear that we can go forward with a bipartisan bill that’s broadly popular, not just among members of Congress, but the American people."
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said on CNN's "State of the Union" that "I do trust the president. At the same time, I recognize that he and his Democratic colleagues want more than that."
  • "There has been a doubt in my mind that (Biden) is anxious for this bill to pass and for him to sign it, and I look forward to being there when he does," Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on "This Week."

Go deeper

Senators welcome Biden's infrastructure walk-back

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) appears on ABC's "This Week" on June 27.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said they were relieved by President Biden's statement on Saturday, walking back his implied veto threat of the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Why it matters: The passage of the $1.2 trillion agreement seemed to be in jeopardy after Biden made several remarks on Thursday suggesting an ultimatum.

Biden walks back implied veto threat on infrastructure deal

President Biden gestures while walking on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One on June 25. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden sought Saturday to walk back his earlier statements on a bipartisan infrastructure deal after indicating Thursday he would not sign the bill unless Congress passed a separate measure that included additional domestic priorities.

The big picture: Biden's earlier remarks — that the two packages needed to move in “tandem” and “if they don’t come, I’m not signing. Real simple” — triggered a scramble among aides, who sought to quell concerns over the future of the bipartisan agreement, Politico reports.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jun 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's ticking climate clock

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

President Biden is under intense pressure to deliver on his historic climate plans, with real danger that he’ll miss his window on major goals that allies had hoped were in their grasp.

Why it matters: Only six months into his presidency, Biden has a limited amount of time to tackle what he calls "the No. 1 issue facing humanity."

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