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Biden visits home in a bid to unite unruly Democrats

Biden “can leave with a deal on where we need to be and we can vote on the full bill next week,” said Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Biden’s caucus is a bit of déjà vu. In many ways, Democrats are reliving the nightmarish week of late September when Liberal objections forced House leaders to defeat a vote on the Senate infrastructure bill, angering centrists in the Senate. left. Biden bowed to demands from the Progressives during a visit to the Hill four weeks ago, rather than lean on his left flank to support the bipartisan bill.

Democrats hope Biden arrives on Capitol Hill Thursday morning with a much more urgent message for the Liberals, who once again promise to block this infrastructure bill if it doesn’t go in tandem with his more social spending plan. large.

Top Democrats, including President Nancy Pelosi, had hoped the president’s trip would be triumphant after they struck a deal on the roughly $ 1.75 trillion social spending bill with moderate senses Joe Manchin (DW. Va.) And Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). But that deal remained elusive Thursday morning as progressives balked at the prospect of removing many of their priorities from final negotiations.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Returned from a meeting with Biden on Wednesday night saying it was “inconceivable” that he would accept a package that lacked critical progressive targets – of expanding the Medicare, prescription drug reform and paid vacation – all because of the object of two centrist refractories.

“The minority should not dictate the majority,” Sanders told reporters.

A Democratic source close to progressive lawmakers said Thursday morning that she feared Sinema and Manchin still had not pledged to vote for the bill. This source added that Sanders told House Progressives that he supported their position not to move the infrastructure bill forward unless it and the social spending bill at the same time by through their room.

“This is exactly why we need legislation and all parties have fully accepted this legislation,” said the source, speaking candidly on condition of anonymity.

Still, Democratic leaders including Biden, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are hoping they can strike a deal this week, paving the way for progressives to back the $ 550 billion infrastructure bill that approved the Senate nearly three months ago.

Sanders’ support will be key to unlocking progressive votes in the House, where Pelosi can only lose three Democrats on a bill. Senior Democrats are hopeful that if the Liberal leader in the upper house adheres to the plan, his allies in the House will feel comfortable enough to give in on the infrastructure bill.

“I think it’s going to be necessary for the President to look them in the eye,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said of his members, and said: “’I believe, after having spoken to Manchin and Sinema, if this frame is passed, they will pass [the social spending bill] in the Senate. “

But even with a strong push from Biden, it will take some wrangling.

Leaders of the Progressive Congressional Caucus Insist that about 30 of their members must see a rock-solid commitment that Manchin and Sinema will vote for the party line’s spending plan, as well as minimum legislation . A group of around 10 to 15 Democrats also said they would settle for nothing less than a full House vote on the broader social policy bill, according to several sources familiar with the discussions.

“Right now there are more than three dozen members who are convinced” to secure more than a cadre, said Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Who leads the progressive movement. caucus. “And that number is only increasing.”

Representative Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), another of the Progressive voters, added that “nothing has changed for dozens of progressives.”

Still, senior Democrats are skeptical that dozens of progressives would be ready to block one of Biden’s biggest priorities at a time when he desperately needs a victory. Anxiety has grown across the party as Biden’s priorities languish in Congress, particularly ahead of a pair of world highs and two key gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey next week.

Even so, the liberal backlash could be a problem for Democratic House leaders as they attempt to hold a vote on infrastructure this week. If the group of about 15 liberals holds up, Democrats should make up for these defections with GOP votes. But Senior Democrats warn those votes are less reliable, with some Republicans likely unwilling to vote in favor until Democrats can release the numbers themselves.

Earlier this summer, House Republicans predicted that more than 20 of their members would easily vote for the infrastructure package, which won the approval of 19 GOP senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Several House Republicans who support the bipartisan infrastructure bill estimate they now hover around 10 GOP votes for Senate-approved legislation.

Sources say Reps Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Co-chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus, are once again working behind the scenes to get more Republican supporters for the infrastructure bill after an initial informal break. whip up efforts as Democrats’ negotiations stalled.

Jayapal and his team of whips have spent the last few days phoning their members to take their temperatures on the emerging deal. They have also made their position clear in the White House, letting staff know they are ready to publicly applaud a deal – even alongside Manchin and Sinema, if necessary – to give Biden a boost as he takes to the skies. for Europe. .

But Jayapal and his allies say at least 30 members of the group refuse to advance infrastructure unless the broader spending deal follows.

“The speaker knows how to count the votes,” said Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). “I don’t think she’ll put it to a vote until she knows she can win it, and she clearly has Pramila and a few others on board.”

And they get the support of Liberal allies in the Senate.

“A framework is part of developing a final bill, but I don’t agree with the infrastructure bill going through the House until we actually have a bill in the Senate, ”said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Burgess Everett and Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.

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