Progressive Democrats, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, expressed optimism on Tuesday the party could come to a deal on President Joe Biden’s budget package of social programs even as she expressed disappointment over the expected cuts.
Biden was holding seperate meetings with liberal and moderate lawmakers at the White House to bring the warring wings of his Democratic party to consensus over the final price tag for his agenda, which includes funding for health and education programs along with money for fighting climate change.
Jayapal said the president has been consistent about his bottom line numbers of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion, which is roughly half of the original $3.5 trillion proposal and much less than the $6 trillion progessives had wanted.
‘It’s not the number that we want. We have consistently tried to make it as high as possible,’ Jayapal, the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters outside the White House after their two hour meeting with the president.
Progressive Democrats, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (center), expressed optimism the party could come to a deal on President Joe Biden’s budget package of social programs even as she expressed disappointment over the expected cuts
The group of liberal lawmakers – Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) – took a group picture outside the West Wing after their two-hour meeting with Biden
As she spoke, moderate Democrats were seen entering the West Wing with their own meeting with Biden.
‘I think the president has been working incredibly hard to get everybody to a place where we can move this forward and finish this process so that we can start on whatever is the next important thing that we need to do so,’ Jayapal said.
Earlier that day, Biden met with moderate Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema at the White House as he took negotiations on his congressional agenda in his own hands.
Biden has stepped up his involvement as the clock ticks toward the October 31 deadline for Congress to pass his infrastructure plan and his budget package of social programs.
The deadline was set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Jayapal said the president did not give a timeline.
‘The president is certainly feeling an urgency to move things forward, to get things done,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.
She added that ‘we are at a point where we feel an urgency to move things forward, and the pickup of meetings is a reflection of that.’
The White House also said on Tuesday said it has not ruled out a carbon tax as a possible option for fighting climate change, even though Manchin said he was not discussing the topic in talks about U.S. spending and infrastructure bills.
‘I’m not taking any options on or off the table,’ Psaki said.
She noted the president believed it was possible to design a carbon tax that would not violate his pledge not to raise taxes on people making $400,000 or less a year.
Some Democrats, including Senator Ron Wyden, have focused on a carbon tax as a possible alternative as Manchin opposes a key measure in the spending bill called the Clean Energy Payment Program (CEPP).
Jayapal said that a carbon tax did not come up in a meeting she and other Democrats held with Biden.
President Joe Biden will take negotiations on his congressional agenda in his own hands, holding a series of meetings at the White House on Tuesday
President Biden met with Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin at the White House ahead of his meetings with progressive and moderate lawmakers
Biden’s meetings with moderates and liberals
President Joe Biden will hold separate meetings at the White House on Tuesday with progressive and liberal members of his party.
Here’s who’s on the list:
Progressives Meeting (2 p.m.): Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Ritchie Torres (N.Y.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.)
Moderates Meeting (4:30 p.m.): Reps. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Ami Bera (Calif.), Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.)
Manchin has expressed doubt a deal can be reached at the end of the month. And, in the 50-50 Senate, Biden needs every Democratic vote to get his agenda passed.
‘There’s an awful lot that’s going on. I don’t know how that would happen,’ Manchin said Monday. ‘But once you get a meeting of the minds, if you ever come to an agreement, a meeting of the minds, you might be able to work something out.’
Additionally, Biden will travel to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday to push for public support of his agenda. And he’ll take part in a town hall with CNN on Thursday night in Baltimore.
Biden also has traveled to Connecticut and Michigan to sell his plan. But he notably has avoided West Virginia and Arizona, whose Democratic senators he needs to get his agenda passed.
Psaki downplayed the importance of the stops.
‘We are in a national media environment,’ she said Monday, arguing that any public appearance can spread the White House message.
The White House meetings come as Democrats struggle to come to consensus on how to cut roughly in half Biden’s social programs from its $3.5 trillion price tag to a $1.5 trillion or $2 trillion bill that Sinema and Manchin can support.
The talks started on Monday, setting the stage for the week of negotiations. Biden spent much of the day behind closed doors, working the phones.
In addition to talks with the president, lawmakers are having sit downs on their own.
Manchin also met with Jayapal on Monday.
The Democratic senator from West Virginia also met with progressive Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday after reports Manchin wanted certain climate provisions cut from the budget package led to clashes between the two men.
Manchin and Sanders ran into each other outside the Capitol building on Monday night and hugged it out for the cameras, patting each other on the back and mugging for a photo shoot.
‘Get a picture of us,’ Manchin told reporters. ‘We’re talking.’
‘We’re talking. We’re going to make some progress,’ Sanders said.
The two men got into their respective vehicles, which were parked next to one another.
‘Never give up, Bernie,’ Manchin told the Vermont senator.
Warring Senators Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders ran into each other outside the Capitol building on Monday night and hugged it out for the cameras
Manchin and Sinema want Biden’s ambitious $3.5 trillion package of social programs – paid for with a mix of tax cuts – lowered in size and scope.
Meanwhile, progressives, led by Jayapal, have said they will not support Biden’s infrastructure plan without a deal on the package of social programs, which contain a mix of programs involving education, health care and fighting climate change.
A series of events at the end of the month is driving the push to pass the president’s agenda: transportation funding runs out at the end of October, Biden needs to head to Rome for the G20 summit and Democrats need a win ahead of the Virginia governor’s election, where their candidate Terry McAuliffee is struggling.
The Nov. 2 gubernatorial election in Virginia is being seen a referendum on Biden. The result will be used to forecast Democrats’ chances of retraining control over Congress in next year’s midterm election.