President Joe Biden pleaded with Senator Joe Manchin to just give him a number as he tried to get Democrats in line on his ambitious social agenda and infrastructure plan.
Biden told the moderate Democrat, who has balked at the $3.5 trillion spending proposal, to name his price during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday.
‘Please, just work on it. Give me a number, and tell me what you can live with and what you can’t,’ Manchin said at the Capitol after the sit down, describing his conversation with the president.
‘He just basically said find a number you’re comfortable with,’ he noted.
President Joe Biden told moderate Senator Joe Manchin (above) to name his price on the budget deal as he tries to break up party infighting
President Joe Biden called in groups of Democratic lawmakers to the White House on Wednesday, holding lengthy but separate meetings with leadership, moderates and progressives
Biden called in groups of Democratic lawmakers to the White House on Wednesday, holding lengthy but separate meetings with leadership, moderates and progressives as he tried to get all sides to stop fighting and come to a deal.
In total, Biden held five hours of meetings with 23 lawmakers.
‘Everybody had a chance to say their piece, and there was a lot of pieces said,’ said Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana.
Democratic leaders are struggling to control the warring factions of moderates and progressives in the party, a battle that is threatening to derail the president’s agenda.
And it comes against the backdrop of a ticking clock: Government funding runs out in one week on September 30th and the nation is rapidly approaching its debt ceiling.
Leadership is also trying pass a stop gap funding measure to keep the government open and to raise the debt ceiling.
Manchin said he didn’t give the president a figure and Biden didn’t give him a deadline. The president needs the vote of Manchin and every moderate Democrat to get his agenda through the evenly divided Senate.
In making the offer, Biden signaled the overall size of his spending package was up for debate, which could anger progressive Democrats who felt the $3.5 trillion was not enough and threatened not to vote for the president’s infrastructure plan if the amount was reduced.
Biden can’t afford to lose the progressive votes either, particularly in the House where Democrats have a four seat majority.
‘When you’ve got 50 votes and none to lose, and you’ve got three to spare in the House, there’s a lot of give and take — that’s just the way it is,’ Senator Bernie Sanders said of the talks.
One stumbling bloc coming up, progressives oppose having the House vote this Monday on the Senate-passed $1.1 bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that about half of her roughly 100-member caucus could vote against the infrastructure measure Monday if the shape of the $3.5 trillion spending bill is not finalized by then.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is working on a deal with the goal of having a framework for the $3.5 trillion spending bill outlined by Monday so she can hold the vote on the infrastructure measure.
‘We are on schedule — that’s all I will say,’ she told reporters after her White House meeting. ‘We’re calm and everybody’s good and our work’s almost done.’
But behind the scenes the speaker is in ‘deal mode.’
‘She’s 100% in ‘deal mode’ right now,’ one House Democrat who is part of the talks told Punchbowl DC news. ‘She’s got that look in her eyes.’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is working behind the scenes to have a deal in place by Monday
The $3.5 trillion spending package would impose tax hikes on corporations and wealthy Americans earning beyond $400,000 a year and plow that money back into federal programs for young and old, along with investments to tackle climate change.
Tensions are high as the Biden agenda is a key campaign promise not only from the president but most of the the Democratic lawmakers, including those in the House who face re-election next year.
‘It wasn’t a matter of when we get it done, it was how we get it done,’ said Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada, who was with the moderate group meeting with Biden.
All told, more than 20 lawmakers were invited to confer with Biden, moderates and progressives in separate meetings stretching into the evening, making their best pitches, Manchin and another key centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, among them.
Despite disputes, many Democrats say they expect the final product to align with Biden’s broader vision and eventually have robust party support, even if that version is adjusted or scaled back.
But Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., a leader of the centrist Blue Dog caucus, said the big bill will take more time. ‘I´m not sure that we´re at a place of closing out just yet,’ she said.
While all this is going on, the government faces a shutdown if funding stops on Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. Additionally, at some point in October the U.S. risks defaulting on its accumulated debt load if its borrowing limits are not waived or adjusted.
Rushing to prevent that dire outcome, the Democratic-led House passed the funding-and-debt measure Tuesday night, but Republicans are refusing to give their support in the Senate, despite the risk of triggering a fiscal crisis.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said since Democrats control the White House and Congress, it´s their problem to find the votes – though he had relied on bipartisan cooperation to approve debt limit measures when Republicans were in charge.
But in the 50-50 Senate, Democrats will be hard-pressed to find 10 Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster. Other options to try to pass the debt ceiling package could be procedurally difficult.