Biden met moderate U.S. Senate Democrats to discuss $3.5 trln spending bill

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden gives remarks at Mather Airport, California

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden was meeting separately with moderate Democratic U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on Wednesday to discuss Democratic-backed domestic spending legislation, the White House said.

Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate, making Manchin and Sinema critical to the $3.5 trillion bill's prospects.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the purpose of the meetings was to discuss a "path forward" on Biden's proposed legislation.

Sinema spokesman John LaBombard said, "Today's meeting was productive, and Kyrsten is continuing to work in good faith with her colleagues and President Biden as this legislation develops."

LaBombard did not provide details of the conversation.

"Today, the president had productive individual meetings with Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin about his Build Back Better agenda. He is in regular touch with a wide range of House and Senate members and continues to engage with them as we move forward on the reconciliation package so we can deliver for middle class families," a White House official said.

Manchin was scheduled to discuss the wide-ranging spending and tax bill on Wednesday evening, Psaki indicated.

The legislation - opposed by Republicans - aims to supplement a separate bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill and would focus on education, childcare, climate-related projects and other matters.

The meeting comes after Manchin over the weekend said he would not back a $3.5 trillion package and urged a slimmer version, putting him at odds with other Democrats backing the larger bill to tackle the party's major policy goals while they maintain a narrow hold on Congress.

Democrats are steering the legislation through Congress using a special procedure called budget reconciliation. It would allow them to win Senate passage with a simple majority made up of 48 Democrats, the two independents who caucus with them, and Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a likely 50-50 tie, thus bypassing Republican opposition.

Under Senate rules, most other legislation needs to win at least 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to advance.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is aiming to hold a vote on the $3.5 trillion package, which could be revised downward, by the end of September and send it to the Senate for consideration.

With a slim Democratic majority in the House, Pelosi will have to satisfy competing demands from the progressive and moderate wings of her party.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham, Doina Chiacu and Jonathan Oatis)

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