President Joe Biden made a desperate appeal to divided Democrats in Congress to bring their slim majorities together long enough to pass major elements of his agenda to include a massive social spending program, an infrastructure bill, and voting reform legislation, all of which are currently stalled.
During a speech in his birthplace of Scranton, Pa., on Wednesday, Biden expressed frustration with warring Democratic factions who have disagreed over various aspects of his plans, especially the price tags for his measures.
“What are we doing? This is the United States of America, damn it,” Biden said in a raised voice during his speech to promote his spending bills.
“These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive,” he said in acknowledging the competing factions within his party. “Or anything that pits one American versus another.”
At another point, Biden leaned in to whisper into the mic, as he has done several times before, to claim that the legislation won’t “increase the debt” because it is allegedly paid for with tax increases on wealthy earners and corporations.
“It’s good to be home,” Biden told supporters as he spoke outside the Electric City Trolley Museum, which he toured before speaking. Biden’s family moved away from Scranton when he was 10; he visited the city on election day last year.
As he departed the White House for his trip Biden sounded a positive note, telling reporters, “I think we’ll get a deal.”
Democratic factions are fighting mostly over Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending package, with the party’s progressive wing pushing for the full amount and moderates like Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia seeking to pare the bill down dramatically.
Sinema has not settled on an amount publicly, but Manchin has said he won’t support a bill higher than $1.5 trillion.
“I don’t believe that we should turn our society into an entitlement society. I think we should still be a compassionate, rewarding society,” he said earlier this month.
For her part, Sinema has said she opposes the massive tax hikes included in the larger spending bill and has pushed for passage of the smaller $1.5 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure she helped negotiate earlier this year.
Given her opposition to the hikes, White House officials acknowledged Wednesday that many of them would likely have to be stricken from the bill, the New York Post reported, though a White House official sounded a tone of defiance, saying that nothing is “off the table” in terms of how to pay for the legislation.
“There is an expansive menu of options for how to finance the president’s plan to ensure our economy delivers for hardworking families, and none of them are off the table,” spokesperson Andrew Bates said, The Post noted.
Sinema has been largely silent about the measure and has instead chosen to negotiate directly with Biden, the paper added. Biden has also met privately with Manchin.
“This is a guessing game with Senator Sinema,” Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) told Politico Wednesday. “Yeah, we’re all supposed to be on the same team. And that means transparency, communication, and collaboration. Without it, it makes this significantly more challenging.”
Biden himself has said that it’s not likely he’ll get the full $3.5 trillion spending package, and many of the party’s progressives have reached the same conclusion.
“There will be something for higher education, but it probably won’t be the free community college,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the House Progressive Caucus, said.
“It’s not the robust vision the president wants or that we wanted,” added Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).
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