Biden visits Congress to rally support for $ 1.2 billion infrastructure bill
Receive free updates on U.S. politics and policies
We will send you a MyFT Daily Summary e-mail gathering the latest US political and political news every morning.
Joe Biden will meet with House Democrats on Capitol Hill on Friday, in a bid to shake up conflicting members of his own party in a deal that would save his broad economic agenda.
“He wants to speak directly to members, answer their questions and explain why we should all work together to give the American people more leeway,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday. “Compromise is necessary, it is inevitable,” she said.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, postponed a decisive vote in the lower house of Congress on Thursday evening after days of critical talks involving progressive and moderate members of the presidential party.
White House officials including Ron Klain, the chief of staff, Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, and Susan Rice, the domestic policy adviser, have also been closely involved in the talks.
Biden took part in the behind-the-scenes negotiation this week, and the trip to Capitol Hill highlights a shift in tactics by the president towards more public intervention. Psaki said Biden will also travel outside Washington next week to defend his plans.
Lawmakers in Biden’s party are divided on two pillars of the president’s broad legislative agenda: a bipartisan $ 1.2 billion infrastructure bill and a $ 3.5 billion spending package to improve the net. America’s social security, which Republicans oppose and will have to pass both houses of Congress with Democratic votes alone.
Biden has banked on his presidency to have both measures enacted, and Democrats in Washington are already worried that failure of either law could hurt the president’s party in a race. closely watched governor in Virginia next month, as well as next year. midterm elections, when control of both houses of Congress will be up for grabs.
“If we can do something here, we’ll pass a historic law [in] Congress. It’s going to have a huge impact on the American people and that’s one of the reasons the president wanted to go today, ”Psaki said.
Progressive Democrats in the House have said they will not sign the infrastructure bill – which would invest federal funds largely in roads, bridges and tunnels, as well as broadband – until what they receive reassurance that the bigger bill will not be diluted in the Senate.
But those assurances seemed far away Thursday night given objections from Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, two of the most conservative Democratic senators. The two wield disproportionate power in an upper house of Congress split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast a deciding vote.
Manchin, who represents West Virginia, revealed Thursday that he had told Democratic leaders he was unwilling to back a budget bill costing more than $ 1.5 billion, while that a spokesperson for Sinema said the Arizona senator had also objected to the cost of the $ 3.5 billion bill.
White House aides met with Manchin and Sinema for late-night talks on Capitol Hill Thursday. But Sinema’s office said on Friday the senator had returned to Phoenix, adding that she remained involved in “remote” negotiations with the White House.
Pelosi continued to adopt an optimistic tone on Friday, insisting that a House vote on infrastructure was imminent. The speaker, widely respected in Washington for her ability to negotiate and build consensus within her party, has repeatedly said she will not vote until she is sure she can win.
Hakeem Jeffries, a member of Pelosi’s management team, told reporters on Friday that he expected the vote to take place – and the bill to pass – “today”.
But others remained skeptical. Pramila Jayapal, the Democratic congresswoman who chairs the Progressive House caucus, told reporters on Friday morning that her stance was unchanged: She would not support the infrastructure package until a budget bill was passed.
The party’s internal divisions over Biden’s legislative platform come as the Democratic Party also faces a looming debt ceiling crisis. Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the Senate remain stuck on lifting the borrowing limit, with Republicans refusing to sign the debt ceiling increase and Democrats arguing that the use of a complex legislative maneuver known as reconciliation to do it unilaterally would be too risky.
Janet Yellen, the US Treasury Secretary, warned the government could default by October 18 if the borrowing limit is not lifted. Investors first showed signs of nervousness over a possible default on Friday, dropping short-term Treasuries that mature in the coming weeks.