Joe Biden visited Capitol Hill on Friday to meet with House Democratic lawmakers to press them to pass two key parts of his agenda, as the legislation has stalled amid an effort to find common ground between the party’s progressive and moderate wings.
“We’re going to get this done,” Biden told reporters afterward. “It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We’re going to get it done.”
The meeting with lawmakers, which lasted about 45 minutes, came as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to find a way to bring a $1.2 trillion infrastructure to the floor. Progressives have vowed to oppose it unless they have assurances of a way forward for a much larger piece of $3.5 trillion legislation, known as the reconciliation bill, which would expand Medicare, offer free community college, extend a child tax credit and provide funds to tackle climate change. For that legislation to stand a chance, Democrats need all 50 members of its Senate caucus on board, but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are balking at the price tag. That has left the White House and Democratic leadership in an intricate and high stakes effort to unite all sides, and reach an agreement with those two lawmakers in particular.
At the Capitol, reporters and lawmakers have described a confusing, even hellish week. Biden’s remarks to the caucus may have been more of a pep talk than anything, according to some lawmakers who were exiting the meeting, held in a basement room off an atrium lit hallway. One representative said that Biden’s message was to “keep hope alive,” as Republicans seize on the delay in passing the legislation as an example of Democrats being in disarray. Biden also reportedly told lawmakers that the social spending package would have to be scaled back. One figure that has been bandied about: around $2 trillion.
But progressives will have to accept a such slimmed down package. Many see this as perhaps the final chance to secure historic legislation, particularly on climate change, before next year’s midterms. Given the Democrats’ slim majorities, Republicans have a good chance of taking back Congress.
Pelosi originally scheduled a vote on the infrastructure bill on Thursday, but it became clear that she would not have the support of the party’s progressive wing given the lack of an agreement with Manchin and Sinema on the reconciliation legislation. Talks have continued since then, but it’s unclear if a vote will happen Friday evening, through the weekend or if, as Biden signaled, this could stretch out over a matter of weeks.
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