Progressives have rallied around Biden’s agenda. Now he has to sell them on a compromise.
Instead, he emphasized that he wanted both bills to be ready before he voted on just one.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s six minutes, six days, or six weeks – we’re going to do it,” Biden told reporters during the Capitol tour.
Biden’s trip to the Hill and his downplaying the need for swift action underscored the collective strength the Democratic Progressive House caucus now has in a tightly divided chamber. And it raised questions about whether these progressives would continue to stick together to oppose Biden’s call for a more modest-sized reconciliation bill – issues Biden sought to tackle head-on. stressing that the bill would significantly advance its economic agenda.
“I wrote the damn bill… Even a small bill can make historic investments – historic investments in child care, child care, clean energy. You do a lot of things, ”Biden told them, according to someone familiar with his words. “We can be consistent and rely on [the Covid-relief bill], do not withdraw from.
“I know a bit about the legislative process,” he said. “I don’t remember before, on fundamental issues… that we don’t have to compromise. “
The comments come at the end of a week that started with high expectations – but also great uncertainty – for Biden’s agenda. It ended with the fate of this agenda still pending. Biden entered the Capitol on Friday with great fanfare, accompanied by an entourage of nine White House collaborators. In the end, he came out empty-handed, a deadline set by President Nancy Pelosi having passed and tensions between his party’s factions are still evident.
“He was trying to get both sides to understand reality. But now I think there are upset people on both sides, ”Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said in an interview. “I appreciate the efforts to bring the two sides together, but apparently it didn’t work.”
Moderates expressed frustration that Biden had given progressives tacit approval to suspend the infrastructure package, which had been passed by the Senate with the full backing of Democrats as well as the support of 19 Republicans.
In his remarks to lawmakers, Biden said without the support of progressives in the House, he didn’t think there were enough votes to pass the infrastructure bill in that chamber. A source close to his comments said Biden added that if he felt there were votes for infrastructure, he would have pressured him.
The White House also argued this week that demands made by progressives – that child care services be extended, action on climate change be taken, and assistance for the elderly be extended – were simply a reflection of Biden’s own Build Back Better plan.
Now the goodwill that the White House has built with the left is ready to be tested.
“Progressives were Biden’s best friend this week in keeping the ceiling high,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Campaign Committee for Progressive Change. “The norm will be less of a dollar amount and more, are we funding all of the key priorities promised by Democrats for a sustainable amount and getting them started?”
Zac Petkanas, senior adviser to advocacy group Invest in America Action, which is working to push through the reconciliation package, acknowledged that Biden had told progressives to wait less. But, he argued, he also told moderates that they need to give more.
“It was a rallying cry for members of Congress to make it happen,” said Petkanas. Part of Biden’s message, he said, was to convey that “the policies of creating jobs and lowering taxes and costs are too important, and they are tied to political necessity, to mid-term elections approaching. The fate of everyone here is intertwined.
Ben Tulchin, a Democratic pollster who worked for Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Among others, said progressives had been wise to stick with the party line’s social spending bill , and suggested that – as negotiations now intensify around the reconciliation package – Biden should fight harder for what will likely be his best opportunity to tackle a range of agendas from healthcare to education. through the climate.
“I was hoping he would learn the lesson from Obama that you have to fight for this thing. You can’t just negotiate with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. You have to go to war. It is what it is, ”said Tulchin.
Such a fight, Tulchin said, could include a trip to the senators’ home states, West Virginia and Arizona, to send a message to residents: “You all support this and your two senators should too. ! ”
But Tulchin acknowledged that slamming the two senators was not part of Biden’s nature. And, reflecting the political calculations and compromises the left must now make, he also felt that passing the two bills would be a critical part of the Democratic Party’s fight against the historic political headwinds of upcoming terms.
“A victory will be useful no matter what,” he said. “And that will still do a lot of good. But they’re going to have to remove a lot of stuff. They will therefore have to sell the benefits they have provided. “