McConnell urges Biden pressure Democrats on infrastructure plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Monday urged President Joe Biden to get the two top Democrats in Congress to abandon a plan to link a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal to a larger reconciliation package that Republicans reject. 

  Days after Biden walked back an initial demand the two pieces of legislation move through Congress in tandem, McConnell cautioned the president's move would amount to "a hollow gesture" without similar action from Biden's fellow Democrats – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

  "The president has appropriately delinked a potential bipartisan infrastructure bill from the massive, unrelated tax-and-spend plans that Democrats want to pursue on a partisan basis. Now I am calling on President Biden to engage Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi and make sure they follow his lead," McConnell said in a statement. 

  "Republicans have been negotiating in bipartisan good faith to meet the real infrastructure needs of our nation. The President cannot let congressional Democrats hold a bipartisan bill hostage over a separate and partisan process." 

  After announcing the bipartisan deal last Thursday, Biden appeared to put the agreement in jeopardy by saying he would not sign it unless the measure moved alongside a larger bill that would raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy while addressing climate change and social needs. 

  His comments roiled Republicans who had negotiated the bipartisan agreement until Biden issued a statement on Saturday that essentially withdrew that threat, saying that was "certainly not my intent." 

  The walkback was welcomed by Republican Senate negotiators who said on Sunday that they were once again optimistic about getting the bipartisan bill though Congress. 

  (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Howard Goller) 

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