By LISA MASCARO and ZEKE MILLER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden on Saturday acknowledged the frustrations as Democrats scramble to save a scaled-down version of his $ 3.5 trillion government overhaul plan and save a public works bill related after frantic negotiations failed to reach an agreement.
“Everyone’s frustrated, it’s part of government, to be frustrated,” Biden told reporters before leaving the White House for a weekend at his home in Wilmington, Delaware. He pledged to “work like hell” to pass the two pillars of his national program, but refrained from setting a new deadline.
On Friday, the president traveled to Capitol Hill for a private meeting with House Democrats, which partly boosted the morale of the disjointed caucus of lawmakers. According to lawmakers in the room, he discussed a price tag of $ 1.9 trillion to over $ 2 trillion for the biggest package that would expand the country’s social safety net.
The White House and its allies in Congress are ready for extended negotiations. Biden said he would travel across the country soon to promote the legislation and he acknowledged that discussions in Washington had become too focused on the billions of new spending and taxes in the bill.
He pledged to do more to educate the public about the plan’s new and expanded agendas, which he says have the support of the vast majority of the electorate.
“I will try to sell what I think the American people will buy,” Biden said on Saturday, adding, “I think when the American people are aware of what’s in it, we will.”
The president said he believed the legislation would be enacted with “plenty of time to change the tax code for people next year.”
It’s a pivotal time for Biden and the party. His approval ratings have plummeted and Democrats are restless, eager to keep his election promise to rebuild the country. His ideas go beyond road infrastructure and bridges to provide dental, vision and hearing care for the elderly, a free preschool, major efforts to fight climate change, and other investments that would affect countless American lives. .
Holdout’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia dashed hopes for a quick compromise on a framework when he refused to budge Thursday night on his demands for a smaller overall package, around $ 1.5 trillion.
Without a broader deal, prospects for a vote on the public works bill have stalled, with progressives refusing to commit until senators reach an agreement. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Told her colleagues that “more time is needed” to shape the larger package.
On Friday night, the House passed a 30-day measure to keep transportation programs running during the stalemate, essentially setting a new deadline for talks, October 31. The Senate approved it without debate in a brief Saturday session, to end the leave of more than 3,500 federal transportation workers, a byproduct of the political stalemate. Biden signed it that evening.
Pelosi, keeping his promise to the centrists, had insisted earlier on Friday that there would be a “vote today” on the $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill that is popular but is caught up in the air. trap in the debate over Biden’s larger measure. But with Progressive Democrats refusing to support this thinner roads and bridges bill unless progress is made on the president’s big bill, Pelosi was unwilling to call for a vote.
“Out of respect for our colleagues who support the bills and out of recognition of the need for both,” Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats on Saturday that she would not bring the smallest measure “to the ground to fail. “.
Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a key centrist Democrat who helped push the public works bill through the Senate but fears Biden’s comprehensive bill was too important, was appalled by the delay of the bipartite package negotiated with the president.
In a statement on Saturday, she said the overturned vote was “inexcusable and deeply disappointing” and “erodes” the confidence necessary for “good faith negotiations.”
While Republicans are staunchly opposed to Biden’s big picture, the President and Democrats on their own are seeking a giant legislative achievement – all to be paid for by rewriting federal balance sheets with tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, those who earn more than $ 400,000 per year.
The biggest of Biden’s proposals is a collection of Democratic priorities that have been in the works for years with an ultimate price, he says, of zero as tax revenue would cover the costs of spending.
“We will and must pass both bills soon,” Pelosi said in his letter. “We have the responsibility and the opportunity to do it. People expect and want results.
The White House and Democrats are also focused on increasing the country’s borrowing limit before the United States risks defaulting on its obligations – a deadline, the Treasury Department estimates, will be reached at the end of the day. later October 18. The House has already acted, but Republican senators have indicated they will not provide votes for the bipartisan passage and want Democrats to go it alone.
“I hope Republicans aren’t irresponsible enough to refuse to raise the debt ceiling and obstruct the debt ceiling,” Biden said on Saturday. “It would be totally unreasonable. It has never been done before. And so I hope it doesn’t happen.”
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