Biden plans big bipartisan bill signing; Republican backers face threats

·3 min read
U.S. President Joe Biden visits the Port of Baltimore

By Steve Holland and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House is planning a big ceremony on Monday for President Joe Biden's signing of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill Monday with Republican lawmakers, amid a toxic political climate in the United States.

Officials are considering holding the event on the expansive White House South Lawn, where the presidential helicopter lands, to accommodate a large crowd invited to celebrate one of the president's biggest legislative achievements to date, a person familiar with the planning said.

The White House said Biden will be joined by lawmakers who helped write the legislation and "a diverse group of leaders who fought for its passage across the country, ranging from governors and mayors of both parties to labor union and business leaders."

The bill was written largely by a core bipartisan group of 10 Senate lawmakers, led by Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Senator Rob Portman. The House of Representatives passed the measure last week with the aid of 13 Republicans.

It is expected to create jobs across the country by giving out billions of dollars to state and local governments to fix crumbling bridges and roads, and expanding broadband internet access to million of Americans.

But it was unclear how many Republican lawmakers would attend the ceremony. Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who helped co-author the legislation, are planning to attend, according to aides.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell does not plan to attend the White House ceremony, saying in an interview this week that he has "other things I've got to do." But he made clear his unflinching support for the legislation.

"This bill was basically written in the Senate by a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats – all the House did last week was simply take up the Senate bill and pass it. This bill was crafted in the Senate, 19 Republicans voted for it, I was one of them, I think it was good for the country and I’m glad it passed," he told WHAS Radio in Louisville, Kentucky.

HARASSMENT ARREST

The bill was crafted as a bipartisan achievement for Biden, who had campaigned as a centrist Democrat, and the moderate Republicans who helped write it.

But it became a partisan lightning rod, with Republicans complaining that House Democrats delayed its passage to ensure party support for Biden's $1.75 trillion social policy and climate change legislation, which Republicans reject.

The 13 Republicans who broke ranks with their party and ignored the instructions of their leaders to support the measure have been targeted by former President Donald Trump and some of their own colleagues.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Trump loyalist, called them "traitors" for giving Biden a political victory in a vote that was opposed by enough House Democrats to sink the measure.

Many of those Republicans have received death threats against themselves and family members.

Police in New York state's Nassau County said on Friday they had arrested a man and charged him with aggravated harassment for making an alleged death threat to Republican Representative Andrew Garbarino, who voted for the bill.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a staunch Trump ally, was censured by a county Republican Party for supporting the bill.

Biden plans a victory lap after the signing ceremony. He will visit a bridge in Woodstock, New Hampshire, on Tuesday to promote the bill as well as a General Motors electric vehicle facility in Detroit on Wednesday.

(Reporting By Steve Holland and David Morgan; Editing by Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis)

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