After multiple delays to a House vote on his infrastructure deal this week, President Joe Biden says he still believes his party can overcome disagreements to move the plan forward.
Speaking with reporters Saturday, Biden pledged to “work like hell” to get both the bipartisan and reconciliation infrastructure bills passed as his ambitious domestic agenda hangs in the balance.
“Everybody is frustrated. It’s part of being in government — being frustrated,” Biden said, when asked for his message to moderates in the House who wanted to see a vote move forward on the bipartisan bill that would fund traditional infrastructure.
During a frantic week of negotiations, Democratic leaders struggled to strike a deal after progressive Democrats threatened to tank the vote on the package unless the party agreed on Biden’s reconciliation bill that focuses on social spending and climate and which Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz,. have said they would not support due to its $3.5 trillion price tag.
In a statement Saturday afternoon, Sinema slammed Democratic leadership in the House for delaying its vote on the bipartisan Infrastructure deal, saying the failure to do so is “inexcusable, and deeply disappointing for communities across our country.”
“There is no reason why both these bills couldn’t pass independently except that there’s not the votes to do it that way,” Biden said.
Asked if he was surprised by how difficult it’s been to get moderate and progressive Democrats to bridge their divides, Biden pointed to the 50–50 split in the Senate that his party must contend with.
“We can bring the moderates and progressives together very easy if we had two more votes. Two. Two people,” Biden said, appearing to take aim at Manchin and Sinema.
Biden’s comments came as he departed the White House for Wilmington, Delaware, Saturday morning, where White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president will continue to work on negotiations.
“The President and his team will continue close engagement with Members of both the House and the Senate through the weekend. And he looks forward to not only welcoming Members to the White House next week, but also traveling the country to make the case for his bold and ambitious agenda,” Psaki said in a statement.
“I’m going to try and sell what I think the American people will buy,” Biden told reporters Saturday morning.
“There’s nothing in any of these pieces of legislation that’s radical, that is unreasonable that is — when you look at it, individually.”
Friday afternoon, Biden took a trip to Capitol Hill to make the case for his economic agenda directly to House Democrats amid the precarious stand-off.
Behind closed doors, Biden suggested that a smaller price tag for his social policy bill — ranging from $1.9 to $2.2 trillion — could help legislators come to a compromise, according to sources in the room for the meeting.
That, along with the $1.2 trillion traditional infrastructure bill, would still be a huge investment, he is said to have told the caucus, acknowledging both bills need to be agreed upon to move forward.
In a letter to Democratic lawmakers Saturday afternoon, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the bipartisan infrastructure bill would need to be passed “well before” Halloween, when the 30-day extension of federal highway and transit funding approved by the House on Friday is set to expire.
“We will and must pass both bills soon. We have the responsibility and the opportunity to do so. People are waiting and want results,” Pelosi wrote.
The president would not outline a timeline for passing the bills when pressed Saturday morning, and he bristled at questions about his confidence while making it clear he remained optimistic that he would get to sign both pieces of legislation.
“I believe I can get this done. I believe once the American people are aware what’s in it, we’ll get it done,” he said.
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