Biden shows up to Hill for bill fiasco, staffers block him from taking questions – from fellow Democrats

President Joe Biden said Friday during a press conference he wasn’t in a rush to pass two massive spending bills after meeting with House Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill after which White House staff reportedly intervened to prevent him from taking questions from members.

“We’re gonna get this done,” Biden told reporters as he left the 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.”

Biden spoke to Democratic House members for 30-40 minutes during his first trip to Capitol Hill since July when he met with Senate Democrats in pushing for his economic measures.

Biden’s involvement in the process comes as Democratic leaders in both chambers failed to garner enough support from their caucus to pass the reconciliation bill and a smaller $1.5 trillion infrastructure measure. On Thursday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) threw a wrench in Democrats’ plans when he announced he would not support the $3.5 trillion reconciliation measure but he could be on board for a bill that spent about as much as the infrastructure legislation, an offer that was quickly rejected by most of his Democratic colleagues.

Democratic leaders in the House postponed a vote on the infrastructure bill on Friday amid Democratic infighting as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team struggled to find enough votes for the smaller bill. Her party’s leftist progressive wing has vowed for weeks not to support that bill until the larger reconciliation package passed. But moderate Democrats like Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have balked at the size of the reconciliation package.

Earlier in the week, Biden spent time trying to convince Manchin and Sinema to agree to the measures as White House officials met with House lawmakers and staffers. Administration officials said Friday that the president’s venture to Capitol Hill wasn’t to hammer out a way forward but rather to talk to members directly in an attempt to convince them to support his economic agenda that Republicans, so far, have universally rejected.

“We’re not trillions apart,” Pelosi said shortly after midnight Friday. “There’ll be a vote today.”

But after those votes fell through, Biden extolled the competing Democratic factions, the moderates and progressives, to find common ground on both measures rather than push them to pass legislation by a specific date. That said, Biden suggested to progressives that with a slim Democratic majority in the House and an evenly divided Senate, they should be willing to accept a smaller reconciliation measure, perhaps in the neighborhood of $2 trillion.

“A great deal of progress has been made this week, and we are closer to an agreement than ever. But we are not there yet, and so, we will need some additional time to finish the work, starting tomorrow morning first thing,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

During the meeting, Biden offered to take questions from Democrats but White House staffers reportedly intervened to prevent him from doing so, which struck some observers as odd.

“INSIDE the caucus: At the end of his remarks, BIDEN offered to take questions from members but his staff jumped in. He didn’t take any questions,” Politico reporter Sarah Ferris noted on Twitter.

“The President can’t even go into a meeting with his own party without having jr. handlers around to tackle him. Not normal,” conservative writer Stephen Miller noted in response.

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Jon Dougherty

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