Biden heads to Capitol Hill to meet with House Democrats amid infighting
President Joe Biden went to Capitol Hill Friday afternoon to meet with House Democrats, White House officials said, amid party infighting that has put his legislative agenda in jeopardy.
Biden, who has kept a low public profile most of the week while negotiating behind the scenes trying to break the impasse, spoke behind doors with liberal and moderate lawmakers for about half an hour.
He added, “It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We’re gonna get it done.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has twice had to delay a vote on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan Biden supports because progressive Democrats are vowing to defeat it unless they also get a vote on $3.5 trillion social safety net and climate policy measure he also supports — but one that two moderate Democratic senators have objected to as too costly.
Beforehand, some Democrats said they were excited to be hearing from Biden directly and some had complained in recent days that he was not more involved in negotiations.
“He’s going over there to make the case for his legislative agenda, which includes the infrastructure bill, and it includes his Build Back Better agenda that would be in the reconciliation package, so he wants to speak directly to members, answer their questions and make the case for why we should all work together to give the American people more breathing room,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters shortly before Biden was scheduled to leave for the Capitol.
Asked whether he expected to walk out of there with an agreement, Pskai said, “I’m not going to make a prediction of whether there will or won’t be a vote. I’ll leave that to Speaker Pelosi to determine when she will call a vote. But he’s making the case he believes it’s — it’s the right time for him to go up there.”
“The case that the White House is making is that compromise requires everybody giving little. That’s the stage we’re in. But no matter where we end, if we can get something done here, we’re going to have a historic piece of legislation passed Congress that’s going to have a huge impact on the American people,” she added.
After two days of Democratic infighting and drama, the fate of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure agenda remained unclear Friday night after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to repeatedly put off a vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill because progressive Democrats had vowed to vote against it — unless there’s a deal on a larger spending package.
Behind closed doors, Biden suggested that a smaller topline social policy bill price tag ranging from $1.9-$2.2 trillion could be the compromise in tense negotiations involving the White House, Democratic progressives, moderates and two key Senate Democrats, according to sources in the room.
Such an investment, together with the $1.2 trillion bipartisan highway bill, would still be a huge investment, he told the caucus, the sources said.
“Even a smaller bill can make historic investments,” they quoted Biden as saying.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill “ain’t going to happen until we reach an agreement on the next piece of legislation,” he added, according to the sources. “Let’s try to figure out what we are for in reconciliation … and then we can move ahead.”
He made clear he campaigned on the proposals in the larger package, they said, but did not suggest or endorse a specific timeline for votes in the House or Senate.
One Democrat inside the room told ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott they were “massively disappointed.”
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the lawmaker told her “when the president of the United States comes, it’s to close the deal — not to say hello.” The member added, “Most of us are at a loss for words. There was no plan. No strategy. No timing.”