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 45-minute meeting took place as Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, tries to bring $1.2 trillion in infrastructure to the floor. The reconciliation bill is a larger piece of $3.5 billion legislation that would provide funding for climate change mitigation, expand Medicare and offer free community college. However, progressives have pledged to resist it unless they are given assurances. To have any chance of passing that legislation, Democrats must have all 50 senators. However, Sen. Joe Manchin (D.WV) as well as Sen. Kyrsten Silena (D.AZ) are refusing to accept the bill’s price tag. This has led to the White House, Democratic leadership and a complicated and high stakes effort by all sides to unite and reach an accord with those two lawmakers.
Reporters and legislators at the Capitol described a chaotic, sometimes even terrifying 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,”Republicans see the delay in passing the legislation in Congress as a sign that Democrats are in turmoil. Biden reportedly also told lawmakers that the social-spending package would need to be reduced. A figure of around $2 trillion has been mentioned.
Progressives will need to accept such a reduced 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.