But Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) said after returning from the White House that Biden made a specific request to him.
Manchin said the president told him, “Please work on it. Give me a number and tell me what you can live with and what you can’t. “
Biden’s shuttle diplomacy was welcomed in the caucus after several Democrats privately complained that the White House had been too indifferent in recent weeks, especially in the House, allowing tensions between the two wings of the party to overflow.
“We are calm and everyone is fine and our job is almost done,” President Nancy Pelosi said after her own hour-long meeting with Biden and Senate Majority Chuck Schumer ahead of a pivotal five-day period at the Bedroom.
The president first sat down with the centrists in a session of about 90 minutes and featuring individually wrapped chocolate chip cookies for the dozen or so lawmakers in the room. Biden has largely allowed lawmakers to dominate the conversation and refrained from delving into tricky details like pricing or a specific timeline.
“There is a sense that we want to be able to pass both an infrastructure bill as well as a reconciliation bill,” centrist Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla) said afterward. , referring to the $ 3.5 trillion spending plan the Hill Democrats plan to spend without GOP support using a flawed Senate budget process.
The conversation was “a good first step” on reconciliation, Murphy said, adding that she still expected the House to move forward with a vote on Monday on Biden’s separate infrastructure bill. , regardless of the status of social spending legislation.
Most Democrats are eager to deliver both strands of Biden’s national agenda – more than $ 1,000 billion for roads and bridges, and much more for universal child care, free community colleges, and more. other safety net programs. But a slim three-vote margin in the House and a 50-50 Senate has meant the party’s two disparate flanks are stuck in a public stalemate over the fate of their own priorities.
“Everyone is trying to maximize their advantage,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (DN.J.) said of the narrow majority in the House. “Somehow, within these constraints, we have to find the bill that achieves the most while keeping the caucus together.”
Democrats hope the rare chance to spend time with Biden will help ease some of the feuds within the party, which lawmakers and their aides say is escalating ahead of Monday’s vote on this Senate infrastructure deal.
As party leader, several Democrats have said that a clear message from Biden about what he wants – and when he wants it – might be the one thing that could break all the noise. But others were more frustrated, saying privately that the president needed to meet more than the strongest voices in the caucus and that there were dozens of other Democrats with their own concerns.
In a separate meeting on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Democrats participated in a strategy session with White House Director of Communications Kate Bedingfield on how to get their bills through. That included the best counterpoints for the GOP’s attacks on the $ 3.5 trillion prize, according to those in attendance, which will be set out in a note to be sent to Hill’s offices on Thursday. He looked at populist themes of sticking to business and mentioned taxes 16 times.
The party’s political dilemma went largely unanswered during the Capitol meeting, according to those in attendance.
It’s still unclear what will happen on Monday when Democratic leaders are expected to introduce a bill they don’t have the votes to pass. Progressives still insist they will not help pass the Senate infrastructure bill until the social spending plan is also ready for a vote – a tall order given the bicameral haggling which is still ongoing on a series of outstanding issues related to this package.
Pelosi and his leadership team insist the infrastructure vote is still on track, although lawmakers say privately the outcome is uncertain.
“The bill will be on the floor Monday,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Wednesday. Pelosi later added that “we are on schedule” when asked if the House would consider the social spending plan on Monday.
Moderates argue the House will have enough votes to pass this Senate infrastructure bill on Monday, predicting there aren’t enough Liberals ready to oppose a board of Biden’s agenda on the floor . They also say at least some Republicans have pledged to support it, but those GOP votes became harder to count on Wednesday as Republican House leaders decided to oppose the infrastructure bill.
Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, however, are warning that more than half of their roughly 100 members are ready to vote against the bill on the ground without further progress on the bigger spending package.
Only about 20 of those House Liberals went public with their threats, led by CPC Chairperson Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Who attended Biden’s second meeting with the Liberals. But that number alone could be enough to derail the bill, with several sources predicting less than a dozen Republicans would vote for the bill, and Jayapal insists its members are holding on.
“The real question is, what can the president do to hand over the Democrats in the Senate who must vote for reconciliation, to get it through?” said Jayapal, who added that she had received a call from Biden the night before, as they discussed the CPC’s position.
Jayapal garnered public support Wednesday afternoon from a group of 11 Liberal senators who declared their support for the position of progressives in the House.
“Dropping the $ 3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act and passing the infrastructure bill first would violate this agreement,” said the group, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt. ), in a press release.
Biden enters the arena just five days before the House takes this long-awaited vote on the Senate infrastructure bill, as committee heads rush backstage to put together as much of the package as possible. $ 3.5 trillion.
“I suspect that what the president is doing today … is trying to establish that both sides, the moderates and the progressives, are dealing in good faith. We’re both doing our best to get things done, ”said House Budget Committee chair John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Who said he and other leading Democrats were pushing for frantically the Senate to move faster on the key elements of massive spending. plan.
While Biden has spent the summer selling his legacy-defining economic proposals to the public from the road, he’s just sat down with the very people who will determine whether his agenda becomes law. Ahead of Wednesday’s meetings, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stressed that Biden will listen, engage and play a constructive role as party leader.
Still, some Democrats have said they hope the White House could have helped the various factions in the caucus come together to build confidence long before the votes were scheduled.
“It’s hard to build a ship the day before you leave,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.). “It’s a lot of last minute deals, that’s how it works here, but it’s hard to build trust.”