Democratic divide over spending priorities tests Biden's deal-making skills

Biden and White House officials have signaled they expect the spending bill to shrink from $3.5 trillion to $2 trillion and cautioned progressives the smaller number is not negotiable. The president also met on Tuesday with moderate Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema who have voiced concern about the size of the bill and pushed Biden to reduce the original cost.


Reuters | Updated: 20-10-2021 01:17 IST | Created: 20-10-2021 01:17 IST
Democratic divide over spending priorities tests Biden's deal-making skills

U.S. President Joe Biden's negotiating skills, honed over his decades in Congress, were put to a serious test on Tuesday as he sought to get warring Democratic factions to agree on massive spending and infrastructure bills. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set Oct. 31 as the deadline for the House to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal that the Senate has already approved and has broad bipartisan support. But that deadline has looked increasingly unrealistic, according to sources briefed on negotiations inside and outside the White House.

Biden met on Tuesday with a group of House progressive lawmakers including Representative Pramilia Jayapal, chair of the progressive caucus. The bloc has been unwilling to pass the infrastructure bill unless it is coupled with a $3.5 trillion budget bill that would fund Biden's campaign pledges on climate, inequality and social programs. Biden and White House officials have signaled they expect the spending bill to shrink from $3.5 trillion to $2 trillion and cautioned progressives the smaller number is not negotiable.

The president also met on Tuesday with moderate Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema who have voiced concern about the size of the bill and pushed Biden to reduce the original cost. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said progress was made in the meeting with Manchin and Sinema, and that the various factions are "coming closer to a path forward."

Biden was due to meet with another group of moderates including Senator Mark Warner later on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats aim to reach a framework deal this week. Speaking to reporters following a closed-door lunch with fellow Democrats and two independents who align with them, he said: "There was universal agreement in that room that we have to come to an agreement and we want to get it done this week."

One of Biden's major selling points in last year's presidential campaign was his ability to find a middle ground at a time of deep political polarization, touting his 36 years as a moderate Democratic U.S. senator from Delaware. Weeks of negotiations, which White House officials say have been productive, have nonetheless failed to bridge the gap on the spending bill. Biden said on Oct. 1 that he would find an agreement "whether it's in six minutes, six days or in six weeks," but White House officials are increasingly concerned as the weeks tick by.

Administration officials have steadfastly refused to provide details on specific components of the package - and potential tradeoffs - arguing that they do not want to negotiate in public. Psaki said Biden is feeling an urgency to move the process forward.

"These are serious policy discussions, often on nitty gritty details. They are not duels between factions of the party...The president is basing this approach on five decades in Washington, which is a pretty good guide on how to get things done," she said. CLIMATE PLAN UNRESOLVED

It is looking increasingly likely Biden could be forced to go to a climate summit in Glasgow in early November without a key piece of the legislation confirmed - billions of dollars in spending he wants for his climate agenda. The lack of concrete U.S. legislative changes on climate could thwart Biden's drive to convince the world that "America is back" and an international player again after Republican Donald Trump's four years of divisive global politics.

A senior administration official pushed back against the notion that failure to reach an agreement before the G20 leaders summit in Rome in late October and the global talks on climate in early November would undermine Biden's credibility. "We're in the middle of this process. It's ongoing. People can see that," said the official. Manchin, the West Virginia senator, said on Tuesday he is not talking about a carbon tax in negotiations over the spending and infrastructure bills, even as some of his fellow Democrats in the Senate support it as a way to fight climate change.

(Reporting By Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Heather Timmons, Alistair Bell and Cynthia Osterman)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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