President meets Democrats on Capitol Hill as pressure ramps up on infrastructure talks
Evan Vucci/AP

President meets Democrats on Capitol Hill as pressure ramps up on infrastructure talks

President Joe Biden returned to Capitol Hill Wednesday to meet with Senate Democrats during their luncheon as he makes the case for both the bipartisan infrastructure proposal and a more sweeping package that can be pursued through reconciliation.

“Is this my homecoming?” Biden joked as he walked up to the Capitol press corps, a familiar sight to the former Delaware senator.

The President then pumped his first and said, “We’re going to get this done.”

The President’s visit came on the heels of Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee reaching an agreement on a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that includes spending for Biden’s sweeping social agenda. This effort is expected to set the stage for Democrats to pass reforms like expanding the child tax credit, offering paid medical and family leave and changing the US tax code — all without Republican support. It is separate from the bipartisan proposal that would invest in traditional infrastructure like roads and budgets.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accompanied Biden into the meeting and echoed the President’s line, saying, “We’re going to get this done.”

White House officials understand that the Senate Democrats’ $3.5 trillion framework for reconciliation adds pressure to ongoing talks on the smaller bipartisan infrastructure deal. Some Republicans, who hoped the bipartisan deal would erode Democratic support for reconciliation, have publicly worried that linkage between the two means they’d be doing the opposite and facilitating the larger package.

But a senior administration official expressed cautious optimism that Tuesday’s announcement won’t cause Republicans to abandon the deal, which Senate leaders aim to pass this month: “We’ll see. It shouldn’t.”

A source in the Democratic lunch on Wednesday said that Biden was clear-eyed about the need to get the infrastructure proposals passed and came with a message that it needs to get done.

The source said that Biden made the case that the bills would make a real difference in the lives of working families who feel forgotten. The source also added that the President received a warm reception.

Schumer announced the budget reconciliation agreement on Tuesday night flanked by Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders of Vermont and others on the committee in a sign of unity among members of the Democratic caucus.

It is unclear whether the proposal of $3.5 trillion can earn the support of moderates, and the bill still has a long way to go. Schumer on Tuesday said that the legislation will eventually have the 50 votes needed to pass the Senate.

Biden’s meeting with Senate Democrats came just before he was set to host a bipartisan group of governors and mayors at the White House to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure framework. The White House has sought to build support with state and local leaders — similar to the strategy pursued with the American Rescue Plan — as the details of the bipartisan deal are still being hammered out.

“The President will underscore that infrastructure has long been a bipartisan issue, and that there’s agreement across the aisle on the need to make investments in our economy and middle class that will create millions of jobs and help us outcompete the rest of the world in the 21st century,” a White House official said.

“He’ll note some of the areas where Democrats and Republicans were able to come together on in the Bipartisan Framework, including generational investments in removing lead pipes, expanding universal access to high-speed internet, expanding transit options, and rebuilding roads and bridges.”

Democratic Govs. Phil Murphy of New Jersey and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois and Republican Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont are scheduled to attend the meeting. Democratic mayors Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio; Kate Gallego of Phoenix, Arizona; Michel Hancock of Denver, Colorado and Republican mayors David Holt of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Sandy Stimpson of Mobile, Alabama will also attend the meeting.

Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh are also expected to attend the President’s meeting with governors and mayors.

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