WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is expected to attend a Thursday morning meeting with all House Democrats shortly before his trip to Europe in a last-minute push to get progressives to vote for a stalled bipartisan infrastructure bill, two sources familiar with the plans told NBC News.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is aiming to hold a vote Thursday on the $550 billion measure, but progressives have insisted that a larger social safety net bill proceed alongside the Senate-passed infrastructure package. Democrats, however, have yet to finalize the social policy bill due to sharp disagreements between moderates and progressives.
Biden’s expected visit on Thursday, first reported by CNN, could briefly delay his planned departure for overseas summits. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday that “there’s flexibility” built into his schedule.
The House Democratic Caucus meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m., where Biden is expected to provide an update on his Build Back Better agenda and press progressives to help pass the infrastructure bill. The Senate passed that measure in August with support from Democrats and Republicans.
Biden signaled in a tweet Wednesday that a deal could be reached on getting key components of his agenda passed.
“Universal preschool. Historic climate investments. Lower health care costs,” the president tweeted. “They’re all within our reach. Let’s bring these bills over the finish line.”
Democratic leaders have struck an optimistic tone about negotiations over the safety net bill, which contains key components of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, but there are still a number of unresolved issues.
Moderate Democrats, especially Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, have taken issue with several aspects of Biden’s spending agenda and have sought a smaller price tag than the $3.5 trillion that was initially being considered in Congress.
The White House had hoped to get to an agreement on the president’s legislative agenda before he leaves for the G20 summit in Rome and the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
But Biden’s attendance at the meeting on Thursday would come after a major setback for progressives. On Wednesday, Democrats dropped a proposal for paid family and medical leave from the spending package after Manchin raised objections.
The U.S. is one of just eight countries without national paid maternity leave.
Some Democrats have said too many key components of Biden’s spending package have already been gutted to satisfy Manchin and Sinema.
Without any Republican support, Democrats cannot afford to lose any of their 50 votes in the Senate and must hold their narrow majority together in the House.