Nearly two dozen congressional Democrats were called to the White House on Wednesday as President Biden steps in to try to help his party reach an agreement on passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill along with his proposed $3.5 trillion social safety net.
But lawmakers reported afterward that while they have optimism that a deal could be reached to pass the administration’s agenda, there is still work to be done.
The first meeting was with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, with another afternoon and then evening meeting following that involving a mix of House members and senators.
The White House made it clear that members of the press would not be allowed in.
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Democrats have been at an impasse for several weeks over how they might pass both the infrastructure plan and the multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better initiative with a 50-50 divided Senate and a narrow majority in the House, with moderate members of the party in both chambers balking at the price tag of the latter.
But progressives are pushing for a quid pro quo, insisting they will only agree to pass the smaller bipartisan legislation if the $3.5 trillion package is pushed through in conjunction with first.
Ahead of the meeting, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders told FOX Business, “Well, I hope that out of [the discussions] will come the firm understanding that both pieces of legislation, which together are transformational I think for the American people, have got to go together.” The Democrat added, “We look forward to working with the president to make sure that we pass reconciliation, which is so vitally important not only for working people but also for addressing the crisis of climate.”
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., who was involved in one of the meetings, issued a statement afterward calling the discussion “positive and productive” while noting that she made it “clear” that she would “continue working in good faith to help enact a fiscally-disciplined Build Back Better Act.”
She added that she felt it “would be really disappointing – an embarrassing move for my colleagues to bring down one of the president’s priorities that was negotiated in a bipartisan way and has broad support and does good things for America, because they feel like they need to make some sort of statement.”
After leaving the White House, Pelosi told the press, “We are on schedule — that’s all I will say” and insisted, “We’re calm, and everybody’s good, and our work’s almost done.”
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The White House issued a statement following the wrap-up of the final gathering, saying, “The President hosted three productive and candid meetings with congressional Democrats, representing a wide range of views of the caucuses in both Chambers.” The statement went on to say that “there is more work ahead in the coming days, and he and his team will have follow-up meetings, starting tomorrow, to continue to advance the process of passing these critical bills.”