Republican senators praising Biden on infrastructure talks may have ulterior motives

Sen. Shelly Moore Capito
Sen. Shelly Moore Capito Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The handful of Republican senators negotiating an infrastructure-adjacent package with the White House have lots of nice things to say about President Biden. "I have had opportunities and dealings with him over the years, and he's a straight shooter," Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) told The Washington Post late last week. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the lead GOP negotiator, said Sunday she believes Biden "has his heart" in the talks, and she praised his "innate Senate negotiating skills" to the Post.

Biden "totally understands" what he's doing, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told the Post. "All of his training is as a senator who understands the importance of finding a place where everybody can be moving forward."

The Republicans "were eager to lay the compliments on thick" when it comes to Biden, Tara Palmeri writes at Politico, but it's best to think of that as "a 'spoonful of sugar' approach." While Biden does appear to want a bipartisan deal on infrastructure, he also has the option of pursuing a Democrat-only bill if that doesn't work out. But "now, if Biden doesn't hold up his side of what (Senate Republicans claim) he agreed to, it will look not only like he reneged on his promise, but that his 'straight shooter' image is a facade," Palmeri writes.

Presumably, a large majority of Americans care much more about the eventual sausage than how it's made. Biden's bigger problem is making sure Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and maybe a handful of other more moderate Democrats are comfortable going with a Democratic bill if the gulf between Biden and his Republican negotiators proves too great.