WASHINGTON — As President Biden’s domestic priorities stall in Washington, he is betting on a pitch to the broader American public to sway a politically gridlocked Congress to vote through two key spending bills that could define his administration.
On Tuesday, Biden traveled to a union workers' facility outside Detroit and made his first voter-facing address regarding his Build Back Better agenda since congressional Democrats gridlocked over it last week.
In the House, a group of progressive Democrats refused to vote for a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill unless it’s tied to the passage of a sweeping $3.5 trillion budget bill that addresses many key party issues, such as childcare, climate change and more. Meanwhile, moderate Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have objected to the price tag of the larger bill.
Democrats control a narrow House majority and can afford to lose only a few votes in that chamber. In the 50-50 Senate, the margin for Democrats is zero objections, as Republicans are unanimously opposed to the larger spending plan.
Democratic leaders are trying to determine if a scaled-back price tag for the larger bill — perhaps closer to $2 trillion — can appease both ideological wings of their party. Such a concession would force hard choices about which priorities to keep and which ones to jettison.
The objections so far have already forced Biden to directly haggle with his own party’s lawmakers to support his agenda. On Monday, he met with 11 House Democrats as part of his ongoing campaign to woo votes. And now he’s taking this effort on the road.
At the Tuesday event, Biden said that the United States is losing its edge in infrastructure, and that the dual spending bills are critical during this “inflection point” in American politics. He argued that the debate is not a partisan one, even though the vote remains fractured along partisan lines, but is instead a division between people who stand for or against American innovation.
“It’s essential that we regain our momentum that we lost,” Biden said at the Operating Engineers Local 324 training facility, vaguely chiding opposed politicians as “complicit in America’s decline.”
He continued: "These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything that pits Americans against one another."
In his pitch, Biden framed his agenda as one bolstering the U.S. economy’s competitiveness on the world stage, emphasizing the need to invest as a way to outpace China. Beijing has spent three times as much on infrastructure as the U.S. has, according to Biden’s estimation.
“China now produces more steel in one month than America produces in an entire year. You can see it in sector after sector. Other sectors are speeding up and America is falling behind,” the president warned.
“If we get this done, we’re going to breathe new life into the economy and breathe cleaner air," he said. “We need to get this done.”
He later expressed more direct optimism.
“We’re going to pass both of these bills,” he said.
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