The White House on Friday touted a ‘huge amount of momentum’ toward enacting the president’s economic agenda – but would not say whether Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin would back the plan.
Manchin and Sinema’s posture was the most dramatic and difficult to decipher element of an action-packed Thursday, when the White House released its new ‘framework’ of a deal $1.75 trillion.
Both made or issued statements touting progress but declined to say they actually supported it.
Asked in a televised interview Friday whether they did, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield didn’t answer directly, instead acknowledging there is ‘work to do.’
‘Obviously there is still a bit of work to do’ to complete work on President Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan
The White House stopped short of saying Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was behind the new $1.75 trillion framework. ‘I’ve worked in good faith,’ Manchin said Thursday
She said the framework was ‘the product of months and months of consultations, certainly with Senators Manchin and Sinema.
‘What he put forward is what he believes a package is going to pass the house and pass the senate. Obviously there is still a bit of work to do,’ she said.
Amid the ongoing chaos, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to pull back from holding a House vote on a separate bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Progressives were holding back support for it.
That denied President Biden having something in hand as he began his trip to Rome and Scotland.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (C), D-AZ, departs from the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 28, 2021. She issued a statement citing progress in negotiations
Progressive Rep. Jayapal says Biden did not call for a vote on infrastructure during a closed meeting before he left town Thursday
But the White House could point to one significantly positive development: the House Progressive Caucus voted to back the framework, rather than blasting the slimmed-down product culled from a $3.5 trillion version.
Left out of the framework was a plan for paid leave, along with new dental and vision benefits for Medicare.
On CNN Thursday night, House Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal pointed to the ‘overwhelming endorsement’ her caucus gave to Biden’s slimmed-back framework. She called it ‘really significant’ because ‘there are many things in there that we did not get.’
Bedingfield referenced that interview in her own interview on MSBNC’s ‘Morning Joe.’
‘Congresswoman Jayapal was really great yesterday talking about how impactful this is going to be. So there was a huge amount of momentum behind this process,’ she said.
And she told CNN: Biden ‘believes we need votes on both as soon as possible. We’re seeing tremendous momentum and we’re moving toward a vote. The president believes they should vote as soon as possible,’ she reinforced.
Even as Biden came to the Hill Thursday to pitch the framework and his infrastructure bill, he did not explicitly call for a vote, which left some lawmakers scratching their heads.
It could be an indication he didn’t want to lean on progressives, who are facing pressure from leaders and centrists to go along with the package. Instead, they are holding out for assurances the new framework can make it through the Senate.
‘He did not actually ask for a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill,’ Jayapal said, the Hill reported. ‘I know that is something the Speaker wanted. I have signaled for days that we simply did not have the votes for the bipartisan bill without the […] Build Back Better act,’ she said.
She noted that progressives have been saying for months ‘that these two bills need to go together,’ but pointed to the ‘overwhelming endorsement of the Biden framework’ that the progressives voted to back in a resolution.
Biden also wouldn’t say directly that Manchin and Sinema were on board.
”I’ll see you in Italy and in Scotland. Thank you,’ Biden said at the end of remarks Thursday as reporters shouted questions asking about it.
Sinema released a statement saying negotiators had made ‘significant progress’ and that she ‘looks forward’ to getting things done – but did not say she would vote for it or mention the specifics of the deal.
Manchin told reporters who hounded him for a direct answer that ‘this is all in the hands of the House right now. I’ve worked in good faith and I look forward to continuing to work in good faith and that is all I have to say today.’