President Joe Biden went to Capitol Hill on Friday to try to press pause on days of fighting among Democrats as he tried to save two key bills. Biden made clear the promised vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill would not happen after all, even as he warned progressives they would have to get used to the idea that the spending package on climate change and social policies would have to be slashed by around half. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious path to passage but Biden also urged patience, telling they lawmakers could take their time if needed. “We’re going to get this done,” Biden told reporters. “It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t, whether it’s in six minutes, six days or six weeks—we’re going to get it done.” For now though it’s “just reality” that the two bills are tied to each other and one can’t pass without the other, he said.
While speaking to lawmakers in what was his first-ever meeting with the full House Democratic caucus since becoming president, Biden said the price tag of the social spending bill would have to come down from $2.5 trillion to somewhere between $1.9 trillion and $2.3 trillion. Biden tried to quell anger of progressives by insisting that even at that price tag it would still involve “historic investments” on key issues.
The acknowledgement that further compromise on the price tag was inevitable angered progressives while the moderates were frustrated by the way Biden seemed to approve of the strategy of holding up the infrastructure bill, which has already passed the Senate with bipartisan support, as a bargaining chip. “He was trying to get both sides to understand what the reality is. But now I think there’s upset people on both sides,” Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas told Politico. “I do appreciate the efforts to get both sides together but apparently, it did not work.”
For now at least it seems progressives are likely to go along with Biden’s plan, in part because the president appeared to agree with their strategy to not vote on the infrastructure bill until the disagreement on the social spending package was settled. “He was very clear the two are tied together,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal said. But it remains to be seen whether that reduced price tag would even be something Democrats would be able to agree on, particularly since Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has insisted he doesn’t want it to cost more than $1.5 trillion.