President Joe Biden took a preemptive victory lap Thursday on his $1.75 trillion Build Back Better framework, declaring it to be essentially a done deal despite suggestions that Democrats remain divided over his agenda.
Biden pushed back his Europe trip by a few hours Thursday and headed over to Capitol Hill in a seemingly last-ditch attempt to get his party to back the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and his social spending-focused Build Back Better package. White House officials appeared confident that Democrats would back Biden’s heavily-scaled back $1.75 trillion Build Back Better package – down from the original $3.5 trillion proposal – and Biden echoed this confidence during remarks to the nation after his meeting. His comments, however, came amid news from the Capitol suggesting the president may not have a win just yet.
“Today, I’m pleased to announce that after months of tough and thoughtful negotiations, I think – I know we have a historic economic framework,” Biden declared.
“I want to thank my colleagues in the Congress for their leadership. We spent hours and hours and hours over months and months working on this. No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus, and that’s what I ran on,” the president continued.
Biden’s public remarks represent the biggest public push for getting his agenda passed to date. Getting an official deal before Biden left for Europe on Thursday afternoon was important to the White House, with the president himself noting recently that doing so would be “very, very positive.”
With his agenda still in limbo, Biden declared that his proposal is “about leading the world or letting the world pass us by,” and his remarks signified not only a victory lap but also renewed pressure on his party to unite.
While Biden laid out the specifics of his $1.75 trillion proposal and told reporters that “everybody’s on board,” those at the Capitol told a different story. Some lawmakers had concerns over the timeline of passing both bills while others, like Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, said the social spending bill “needs to be improved.”
Sen. Sanders has told House progressives he supported their position to hold off on the infrastructure bill unless the social spending bill comes at the same time, reports @nicholaswu12
So again, you can call it a deal all you want but unless Sanders relents,’it doesn’t matter
— Heather Caygle (@heatherscope) October 28, 2021
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 28, 2021
“I think we’re in a good place,” Democratic Georiga Sen. Raphael Warnock, on the other hand, said.
Democratic Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, one of the key moderates the White House needs on board for the pricy Build Back Better agenda, issued a statement after Biden went to the Capitol and said that they’ve “made significant progress on the proposed budget reconciliation package.”
“I look forward to getting this done, expanding economic opportunities and helping everyday families get ahead,” Sinema said, stopping short of announcing an official done deal-type statement.
Following a Progressive Caucus meeting, Democratic Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen told reporters that he believes there will be a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill Thursday – but he wasn’t confident it would pass. This lack of confidence was validated by Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, who both came out of the meeting and voiced opposition to the bipartisan infrastructure bill without a Senate vote on the Build Back Better agenda.
The loose outline is NOT enough to allow her to vote for infrastructure, she says. “It’s still very general right now,” she says.
Other Dems also stressing there is no deal yet.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) October 28, 2021
As for Biden’s social spending package, members reportedly came out of the meeting with a “unanimous endorsement,” Democratic New York Rep. Mondaire Jones told reporters. Still, the president’s Build Back Better framework needs the support of all Democrats in the Senate to pass using a process called reconciliation, and it remains unclear whether moderates like Sinema and Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin are ready to vote yes without having seen the text of the bill. Portions of the bill were publicized Thursday afternoon, but other sections are reportedly still being drafted, according to Punchbowl News.
Manchin and Sinema’s position remains a concern to some Democrats and represents another uncertainty within the party. Cohen noted as much, explaining that there’s still an issue of “the substance and, basically, trust of” the two moderate Democrats. CBS News White House producer Sara Cook reported that while Manchin and Sinema have “loosely said okay to a very general, broad framework” for Biden’s proposal, they have not yet agreed to vote for the bill. (RELATED: ‘I’m Happy To Show My Cards’: Progressives Double Down, Vow To Tank Infrastructure Bill If Budget Gets Delayed)
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, on the other hand, passed the Senate with overwhelming support and has been stalled in the House due to negotiations over Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
With Biden going to the Capitol to speak with members of the Democratic Party and issuing public remarks laying out his $1.75 trillion plan, at least some members of the party appear to be feeling the pressure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly pushed for a Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill vote Thursday, warning her members not to “embarrass” Biden by voting it down as he traveled to Europe.
Rep. Karen Bass says Biden asked members to support the BIF and Pelosi said she wants it “voted on immediately.”
As for her own demands, Bass says “I would like to see text” on BBB before voting on BIF.
Says Biden gave no indication when that text would be finalized.
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) October 28, 2021
One of the key issues surrounding Biden’s $1.75 trillion plan is that it doesn’t include things like a provision to address the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices. That, coupled with pushback over voting for the bipartisan bill without the Build Back Better social spending package, is putting an uncertain cloud over what Biden portrayed to the American people as a near-certainty.
Sanders, for one, wouldn’t promise to back the social spending bill without “strong Medicare negotiation language,” CNN’s Manu Raju reported. Sanders initially proposed a $3.5 trillion package that included federally-funded community college and a 28% corporate tax rate, neither of which were included in Biden’s latest proposal. A prescription drug pricing mechanism was also left out of the newest iteration of Build Back Better, which is also expected to cause consternation among some members of the Democratic Party.
Congressional reporter Michael Ginsberg contributed to this report.