Biden leaves meeting saying ‘it doesn’t matter’ when bill is passed
President Biden on Friday told reporters there was no rush to pass his economic agenda after meeting with the House Democratic caucus amid tensions over how to proceed on a Senate-passed infrastructure bill and a larger reconciliation package.
“We’re gonna get this done,” Biden said as he departed the caucus meeting.
“It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t matter whether it’s six minutes, six days or six weeks. We’re gonna get it done,” he added.
Biden spoke to congressional Democrats for roughly 30 minutes. It was his first time traveling to Capitol Hill to push for his agenda since July, when he met with Senate Democrats.
The president’s personal involvement came amid calls for him to do more to facilitate the passage of a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a larger reconciliation package that contains funding for Democratic priorities like health care, climate policy, education and family care.
Biden had devoted much of his time earlier in the week to seeking out an agreement with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on the contours of a reconciliation bill while top White House aides met with House lawmakers and their staff.
White House officials insisted Biden’s trip to the Hill on Friday was not meant to outline the path forward, but merely to speak directly to members and rally support for his agenda.
Biden did not exhort his fellow Democrats to adhere to a specific timeline on passing the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill or the broader package to expand social safety programs during the roughly 40-minute meeting in the Capitol basement.
Instead, the president focused on urging them to come together as centrists and progressives have remained at odds whether to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill as soon as Friday or wait until they secure commitments on the social spending package from two key holdouts in the Senate.
While Biden lowered expectations for a vote Friday on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, despite a push from centrists, he also indicated that progressives should be ready to accept a smaller social spending package than the initially expected $3.5 trillion, to possibly a size more like $2 trillion, lawmakers said.
Biden did not specify a top-line number for the package, however.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), another of the centrists who secured the original commitment to vote on the bipartisan bill this week, acknowledged that Biden told Democrats he wanted to link passage of that measure with the social spending package.
“So we are trying to pass this bill, but we heard the president of the United States say that he wants to link both of them together,” Cuellar said.
“I think what he was trying to do [was] he was trying to tell progressives: Lower your expectations. And he was telling the moderates: They’ve got to be put together,” Cuellar said. “He was trying to mediate.”
Some Democrats left the meeting frustrated by the lack of urgency to immediately pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“No one had a specific timeline, but it’s not today,” said progressive Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.).
Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), one of the centrists who secured the original commitment from Democratic leaders to vote this week on the bipartisan bill, expressed frustration that the House vote didn’t appear to be imminent after Biden’s appearance.
“I’m very disappointed,” Costa said.
Mike Lillis and Scott Wong contributed.
Updated at 5:15 p.m.