Biden Pleads With Dems To Vote On Spending Framework, Progressives Say No

Biden Pleads With Dems To Vote On Spending Framework, Progressives Say No

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
October 28, 2021

President Biden, for the second time in one month, rushed to the nation's Capitol Thursday to sound the alarm to House Democrats that his presidency and the party's majorities in Congress are in danger as he pleaded with members to vote for both his newly released $1.75 trillion spending framework and the stalled bipartisan infrastructure bill as soon as possible, but progressives within his caucus are not cowing to their party's leader wishes.

"We badly need a vote on both of these measures. I don't think it's hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week," Biden told fellow Democrats in a caucus meeting, according to a congressional source who spoke to The Floridian after the gathering.

Shortly before Biden gave his personal pitch to House Democrats, the White House revealed the whittled down version framework of the Build Back Better agenda, a significant scal­ing back of the $3.5 trillion that cut big pieces out of the original blueprint including paid family and medical leave, out of the deal altogether.

Biden went through his newly released $1.75 trillion framework of the spending package, explaining what survived the chopping block, the framework estimated cost and the pay-off to fund the plan that includes new tax measures. According to the White House, the framework is estimated to cost $1.75 trillion over ten years, and they are claiming the pay-offs laid out would raise $1.995 trillion. However, the framework is not a bill text and has not been evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Joint Committee on Taxation, or any independent "nonpartisan" research institutions.

"I need you to help me. I need your votes," Biden pleaded to the room, adding, "We are at an inflection point. The rest of the world wonders whether we can function."

It was a different attitude Biden projected when he entered the Capitol early Thursday morning after 9 am, telling reporters, "It's a good day," while largely ignoring the shouting questions as he headed to the caucus meeting.

Biden's biggest legislative test of his presidency isn't coming from Republicans who remain committed to holding their line against passing any of his domestic or economic spending agenda — but from his own party, who are refusing to give him a key win amid dismal poll numbers. Walking into a meeting with a highly skeptical audience, Biden faced an uphill battle of selling a framework that cuts out or remains up in the air to be added.

House Progressive Caucus leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) told reporters before the meeting that her caucus "had a position of needing to see the legislative text and voting on both bills," and they want a "complete agreement" from all 50 Democrat Senators" on both of Biden's agenda ahead of any vote.

However, progressive despite blessing in some parts Biden's new framework, many members after the huddled insisted they want a final text as they threatened to repeat last month's drama in tanking the votes needed to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill. After the meeting, Jayapal said Biden "made a really compelling speech for both bills," but warned they aren't moving off their original position and will not cave despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) demands to vote on the bipartisan bill as a standalone.

Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez told reporters that progressives "need certainty" and legislative text, calling the framework "a back of an envelope" in order to secure the votes from the 90-plus progressive members on the infrastructure bill.

"I think we need something a little bit more than just something on the back of an envelope. I think legislative text is one mechanism of us getting there. I think we're open to other mechanisms, but it needs to be something a little bit more than a back of an envelope," Ocasio-Cortez said.

Meanwhile, other progressive members such as Rep. Cori Bush (D-MI) flat out is against voting on the infrastructure bill at this point, telling reporters that she felt "bamboozled."

"I have held steady with what we've talked about as progressive, at least some of the Progressive Caucus up until now, saying that we both have bills to ride together, and we don't have that right now," Bush said.

Another fellow "Squad" member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), bluntly replied to reporters, "Hell no" when asked if she would support the infrastructure bill as a standalone.

For weeks, Democrats, despite being able to ram through Congress any measure through their wafer-thin majorities or the process of reconciliation, have struggled to reach any form of agreement on Biden's massive social spending bill. Days of negotiations led to Biden reducing the scope and dropping many progressive wish list priorities from the bill in a gamble to secure the support of moderate Senators. Both Manchin and Sinema played a heavy hand in the significant revisions of Biden's spending agenda.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), whom he has wrestled with moderate senators over negotiations the last few weeks, added more fuel to the fire that Biden couldn't extinguish when he called for "explicit legislative language" before a House infrastructure vote.

In his last visit to the Capitol, just a little less than a month ago, Biden caved to progressive demands to link the infrastructure bill to the previous $3.5 trillion spending package blueprint. Pelosi then set a new deadline of October 31, telling Democratic colleagues, "it's about time!" to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package. Last month's drama saw the first scheduled vote nixed due to progressives holding the line in saying they need more than assurance in place before voting to pass the infrastructure bill.

Biden had made it no secret that he wanted the House to get their act together and get an agreement before he headed to the U.N. Climate Summit on November 1. But in the end, Biden jetted off to Europe empty hand as Democrats back home left Congress empty-handed and escalating the tensions within the intraparty feud as both sides from the Democrat party are even more distrustful amongst each other.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

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