President Joe Biden and the two top Democrats in Congress discussed his sweeping social and climate change agenda at the White House on Friday, as Democrats struggled to reach agreement on a legislative framework within the next few days.
Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met for breakfast for discussions, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joining from New York via Zoom, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Democrats in the House, Senate and White House hope that reaching agreement on a framework of $2 trillion or less in coming days will allow the House to move forward next week on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and set the stage for passage of Biden’s larger “Build Back Better” social package.
The two bills are at the heart of Biden’s domestic agenda and could provide signature legislation to bolster both his presidency and Democrats’ hopes of retaining control of the House and Senate in the 2022 elections. Democrats hold razor-thin majorities in both chambers.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said Democrats are determined to move forward quickly.
“All of us want to get this done ASAP, which means we’d like to get a framework by the end of … today, but no later than the end of the weekend,” Hoyer told CNBC.
Biden’s discussion with Pelosi and Schumer came a day after the president said at a CNN town hall event in Baltimore that he was close to striking a deal to pass both the “Build Back Better” plan and the infrastructure bill, after weeks of intraparty bickering among his fellow Democrats.
“If we can’t eventually unite this country, we’re in deep trouble. … I do think I’ll get a deal,” the president said.
Disagreements over the scale of the “Build Back Better” package have held up Biden’s domestic agenda, with progressive Democrats in the House refusing to vote for the infrastructure bill, which has already been passed by the Senate, until a deal is reached on social programs and climate change.
Moderate Democrats, most notably Senators Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema, had objected to the original $3.5 trillion price tag and some provisions of the latter bill. Republicans oppose the measure, but support the infrastructure legislation.