U.S. President Joe Biden traveled to Capitol Hill on Friday vowing that Democrats would pass legislation that is key to his agenda to improve infrastructure and fight climate change after party infighting threatened to derail the bills.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s six minutes, six days or six weeks – we’re going to get it done,” Biden told reporters as he left the private meeting with House Democrats.
Democratic lawmakers are at odds over a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as a $3.5 trillion Democratic social spending and climate change bill.
The Senate approved the infrastructure plan in a vote last month that saw 19 Republicans join all 50 members of the Democratic caucus.
However, the larger climate change and social spending bill does not have bipartisan support and has also faced opposition from some Senate Democrats who say they will not support that much spending.
House progressives say they won’t vote for the infrastructure bill unless there is progress on the social spending bill, while Democratic moderates do not want to vote on the larger spending bill until the infrastructure bill passes.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced earlier this week that a vote on the infrastructure bill to repair the country’s aging roads and bridges and to expand broadband internet service throughout the United States would be held Thursday. However, that vote never took place after hours of efforts to reach an agreement between Democrats failed.
Hopes for a quick compromise ended when Joe Manchin, a moderate Senate Democrat from West Virginia, said he would not move from his demand for a smaller climate and social safety net package of around $1.5 trillion, a sum that has been rejected by progressives.
Biden proposed a compromise amount of $1.9 trillion to $2.3 trillion at Friday’s meeting, according to the Associated Press, which cited an anonymous source who was present during the talks.
Because of the legislative impasse, Biden chose to stay in Washington on Friday, instead of traveling to Delaware as he does most weekends. The White House said that Biden would visit U.S. cities next week to make the case that the two proposed pieces of legislation would help Americans.
The House and Senate did vote Thursday afternoon in favor of stopgap legislation to keep the government funded until December 3, avoiding a midnight shutdown. Biden signed the legislation into law Thursday night at the White House.
Additionally, Pelosi told Democratic colleagues the House would vote soon on suspending the national government’s debt limit.
Even if the House passes the legislation, its fate in the politically divided Senate, with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, is uncertain.
Senate Republicans twice this week have rejected efforts to suspend the debt limit, saying it is an effort by opposition Democrats to clear the path for the massive new spending plan to expand social safety net programs, the most since the 1960s.
Republicans uniformly oppose the Democratic proposals championed by Biden.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told congressional leaders on Tuesday that the government will likely run out of money to pay its bills by October 18 if Congress does not suspend the debt limit or raise it substantially beyond its current $28.4 trillion total.
Some information in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.