President Joe Biden expressed frustrations on Saturday as Democrats try to save a scaled-down version of his $3.5 trillion government-restructuring plan and a related public works bill after frantic negotiations failed to produce a deal.
“Everybody’s frustrated, it’s part of being in government, being frustrated,” Biden told reporters before leaving the White House for a weekend stay at his home. He pledged to ”work like hell” to get the two pillars of his domestic agenda passed into law, but refrained from laying out a new deadline.
On Friday, the president visited Capitol Hill for a private meeting with House Democrats, which served as a morale boost for the disjointed caucus. He discussed a $1.9 trillion to $2 trillion-plus price tag for the larger package that would expand the country’s social safety net, according to lawmakers in the room.
The White House and its congressional allies are bracing for a long period of negotiations. Biden stated that he would soon travel across the country to promote the bill, and he acknowledged that the focus in Washington had shifted too much to the bill’s trillions in new spending and taxes.
He promised to do more to inform the public about the plan’s new and expanded programs, which he claimed are supported by the vast majority of voters.
“I’m going to try to sell what I think the American people will buy,” Biden said Saturday, adding, “I believe that when the American people are aware of what’s in it we’ll get it done.”
The president said he believed the legislation will be signed into law with “plenty of time to change the tax code for people next year.”
Biden and the Democratic Party are at a crossroads. His approval ratings have fallen, and Democrats are agitated, eager to see him follow through on his campaign promise of rebuilding the country. His proposals go beyond road and bridge infrastructure to include dental, vision, and hearing care for seniors, free prekindergarten, major climate change initiatives, and other investments that would affect the lives of millions of Americans.
Prospects for a vote on the companion public works bill stalled without a broader agreement, as progressives refused to commit until senators reached an agreement. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told colleagues that “more time is needed” to shape the larger package.
The House passed a 30-day measure on Friday night to keep transportation programs running during the shutdown, effectively setting a new deadline for negotiations of Oct. 31. During a brief Saturday session, the Senate approved it without debate, putting an end to the furloughs of more than 3,500 federal transportation workers, which are a result of the political impasse. By the evening, Biden had signed it.
Pelosi had promised earlier Friday that a “vote today” would be held on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which is popular but is mired in the debate over Biden’s broader bill. Pelosi was hesitant to call a vote because Democratic progressives refused to support the slimmer roads-and-bridges bill unless progress was made on the president’s larger bill.
“Out of respect for our colleagues who support the bills and out of recognition for the need for both,” Pelosi said in a letter Saturday to House Democrats that she would not bring the smaller measure “to the floor to fail.”
(Source: The Associated Press)