Democrats ready to put a wrap on dragged-out talks

Democrats are eager to finish talks over President BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE's sweeping spending bill, arguing the party is gaining little by dragging out negotiations. 

The push to wrap things up quickly comes as months of haggling has led to pent-up frustrations that have dominated headlines and conversations around Capitol Hill. Democrats missed a self-imposed deadline of working out a framework by Friday, though talks continued into the weekend. 

Even once Democrats lock in a framework, they’ll likely still have days of drafting and ironing out details. But after days of patience wearing increasingly thin, lawmakers are eager to take the first step and show that they and Biden can deliver on the massive spending package. 

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“It's hurting Biden. It's hurting the Democrats. It's undermining the vision of all the accomplishments we will have as being highly significant. The frustration is people's heads are blowing off. And they should be. It has to come to an end,” Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Lawmakers call on Olympic committee to press China on human rights abuses Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO MORE (D-Ore.) said during a recent interview with MSNBC. 

He added, “I don't know if soap opera or a nightmare soap opera is the right wording, but we're in big trouble right now with this extended, getting nowhere negotiation.”

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyGOP blocks bill to expand gun background checks after Michigan school shooting Murphy criticizes anti-abortion lawmakers following Michigan school shooting Republicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall MORE (D-Conn.) added that Democratic senators were willing to be “flexible” if it gets them to an agreement. 

“I desperately want a compromise here. But the time is now to get this done,” he said. 

Democrats have spent weeks stuck in high-profile feuds over everything from the price tag to the policy details of the sweeping social spending bill that is at the heart of their legislative agenda heading into the 2022 midterm elections.

That’s led to worries within the party that the sweep of the still-being-drafted legislation is being lost on voters. Democrats view the bill, which is expected to touch on everything from health care to child care to education and tax reform, as the most significant measure they’ve worked on in decades, but many Americans have heard more about the price tag and potential tax increases than the policy details.

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Getting a framework would let the party pivot more fully to selling their prized measure to voters ahead of the critical elections.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP ramps up attacks on SALT deduction provision Symone Sanders to leave the White House at the end of the year Briahna Joy Gray says Chris Cuomo will return to CNN following scandal MORE (I-Vt.) — who sparred privately with Sen. Manchin (D-W.Va.) — told reporters that a “vast majority” of Senate Democrats want to “act quickly.” 

“Well, I think there is a growing understanding that the working families of this country want real change, that there have been quote unquote negotiations, month after month after month, and that it is now time to fish or cut bait,” Sanders said. 

Senators have credited Democratic leadership, the White House and key lawmakers for working behind the scenes to make progress even as they jostled in public. 

“As I think I told one of you, nothing’s happened the last 10 days. I think there’s been a lot happening the last 10 days, I just wasn’t aware of it. So I think we’re point that we can move pretty well,” said Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats wrangle to keep climate priorities in spending bill  On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Senators huddle on path forward for SALT deduction in spending bill MORE (D-Mont.).

After appearing to be locked in a stalemate, Biden, House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCongress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight On The Money — Congress races to keep the lights on House sets up Senate shutdown showdown MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerProgressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan Collins says she supports legislation putting Roe v. Wade protections into law Biden should seek some ideological diversity MORE (D-N.Y.) and other influential members hit the gas.

Democrats say they've made good progress, with White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Biden's winter COVID-19 strategy Biden lays out multi-pronged plan to deal with evolving pandemic White House defends travel ban on African countries MORE telling reporters Friday that they were down into the “nitty gritty details” and were “getting closer” to a deal. Biden also met with Schumer and Manchin over the weekend.

But they are still working out divisions on some issues, including drug pricing negotiations, where the party ultimately comes down on expanding Medicare benefits, the climate change package and how the bill is paid for. 

“More than 90 percent of everything is agreed to,” Pelosi told reporters. 

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money — Congress races to keep the lights on House Democrats call on leaders to pass supply chain legislation War of words escalates in House MORE (D-Md.) said that he wanted to bring both the spending bill and the infrastructure bill to the floor for a vote as soon as next week. 

“In the Build Back Better plan and the BIF plan, which is a bipartisan bill on the Senate side, I hope to bring both of those bills to the floor next week if they’re ready,” Hoyer said, referring to the bipartisan infrastructure framework. 

There are political benefits, in Democrats’ view, to getting a framework for the bill that puts them closer to passage.

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Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLiberty University professor charged with alleged sexual battery and abduction of student Five Senate Democrats reportedly opposed to Biden banking nominee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay MORE (D-Va.) is pushing for Democrats to quickly “put points on the board” by passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has been stuck in limbo, and letting Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D) tout the legislation as a win in the final days of his race. 

“If we don't, we’ll pay the price in New Jersey and Virginia,” Warner added. 

And Biden told moderates and progressives during two close-door White House meetings that he wants the climate provisions ironed out before he goes to a meeting in Scotland so that he can promote them at the event. 

“He said, 'The prestige of the United States is on the line. I need this to go represent the United States overseas. I need people to see that the Democratic Party is working, that the country is working, that we can govern,'” Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaKhanna advocates for 'honest and reflective patriotism' in America Democrats call on Education secretary to address 'stealthing' at federal level Showdown: Pelosi dares liberals to sink infrastructure bill MORE (D-Calif.) told CNN.

Tester, who attended the meeting of moderates, added that Biden “absolutely” talked about how having the climate package worked out would help at the internal meeting and be an “accomplishment.” 

“He talked about having this thing well on its way,” Tester said.