Louisiana Congressman Troy Carter says the president’s decision to put his $1 trillion infrastructure bill on hold and to relink the legislation to his $3.5 trillion social proposals is the correct strategy.

“The basic take away is that we’re closer than many think,” Carter said Friday about the two cornerstone bills of the Biden administration in the moments after leaving a Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill with President Joe Biden.

The U.S. House debated the bipartisan infrastructure bill late into Thursday night before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, decided to postpone the vote.

House Republican leaders, including Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, had lobbied against the infrastructure bill on which U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, had served as a key negotiator. The legislation also was opposed from the other side of the political spectrum as left-wing Democratic representatives feared losing leverage to moderates in drafting the social policy bill, which some say is becoming too expensive, if the infrastructure measure passed independently.

“The president said, ‘Rather than look at that number, let’s look at the programs and determine what is important to you,’” Carter recalled, adding that he needs both infrastructure and social policy programs.

The state’s only Democratic congressman, Carter's 2nd Congressional District starts in New Orleans East, then links just about every Black majority precinct along the Mississippi River into north Baton Rouge.

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Noting that his constituents rely on the petro-chemical plants the line the river for jobs, they also suffer from high rates of cancer. Parts of the social policy legislation would help companies better comply with environmental regulations. But the district also needs a passenger rail link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that can efficiently deliver tens of thousands of workers to the riverside manufacturers, many of which are accessible landside over narrow, winding roads.

"I'm a realist. I was a senator a long time. I know how legislation gets done,” said Biden, carrying a newspaper and a cup of coffee Saturday morning as he boarded Marine One for a short trip to his personal home in Delaware.

“There is no reason why both these bills couldn’t pass independently except that there are not the votes to do it that way,” Biden said, adding that he’s going to hit the road to educate voters on what are included the bills.

“The American people are relying on Congress to get both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better plan done,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Saturday. “These bold proposals will create millions of good-paying union jobs, make overdue investments in our nation’s infrastructure, lower the cost of childcare, eldercare and education, and take essential steps to address the climate crisis. He left the meeting yesterday with the firm belief that there was a shared commitment from across the Democratic Caucus to deliver for the American people.”

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.