Joe Biden showed his frustration with warring Democrats delaying the passage of his Congressional agenda on Wednesday, urging the moderate and progressive wings of the party to come together to pass his trillion dollar package of social programs.
‘What are we doing? This is the United States of America, damn it,’ Biden said, his voice raising during a speech in Scranton designed to promote both his infrastructure deal and his social spending program.
‘These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive,’ he said, acknowledging the interparty war he is dealing with as he tries to pass his agenda. ‘Or anything that pits one American versus another.’
He also used his signature whisper – what he does when he wants to make a point – to note the legislation, which is paid for increases in taxes on the wealthy and corporations, will cost zero.
‘It does not increase the debt,’ he added,
Biden returned to his hometown to promote his plan that would cause a massive increase in federal spendiing. It was his first visit to Scranton as president.
‘It’s good to be home,’ he told the cheering supporters outside the Electric City Trolley Museum, where he made his remarks. Biden, a huge supporter of Amtrak and fan of trains, toured the museum before making his sales pitch.
Biden was last in Scranton on Election Day 2020. He lived there until he was 10.
As he prepared to depart for his home town, Biden said he was hopeful of reaching a deal, after conceding to Democrats that some of his most ambitious proposals will have to go.
‘I think we’ll get a deal,’ he told reporters before boarding Air Force One for the short hop to Pennsylvania.
He leaves behind a party that remains deadlocked in Washington.
Joe Biden showed his frustration with warring Democrats delaying the passage of his Congressional agenda, urging the moderate and progressive wings of the party to come together
President Joe Biden checks out a trolley car with the number 46 – he is the 46th president – during a tour of the Electric City Trolley Museum with its executive director Wayne Hiller
Bidne toured the Electric City Trolley Museum before he made his remarks
Biden gave Democrats an end of the week deadline to come to consensus on a topline number for his ambitious package of programs, including funds for education, healthcare and to combat climate change.
But to break the stalemate between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party, the $3.5 trillion plan will be cut nearly in half.
Getting the ax is his proposal for two years of free community college. Other options being considered are cutting back the child tax credit and paid family leave; and removing a clean energy program after Senator Joe Manchin objected to it.
‘There will be something for higher education, but it probably won’t be the free community college,’ said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
A day earlier, Jayapal other progressives met with Biden at the White House as the president tried to bring moderates and liberals to agreement.
They conceded that cuts were inevitable if the measure is to be passed.
‘It’s not the robust vision the president wants or that we wanted,’ noted Rep. Ro Khanna, another liberal.
Biden also held separate meetings with a group of moderate lawmakers and with Senators Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema at the White House on Tuesday as he pushed for Democrats to close a deal.
The president felt ‘more confident’ after the day of meetings, press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
‘There was broad agreement that there is urgency in moving forward over the next several days and that the window for finalizing a package is closing,’ she noted.
Biden wants a framework for the plan by the end of the week with its topline number looking to be between $1.75 trillion and $2 trillion, about half of the original.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed confidence Wednesday morning negotiations were on track.
‘We will be where we need to be in order to reach our goal,’ she told reporters on Capitol Hill. She gave a deadline of Halloween to pass both Biden’s social plan and his infrastructure proposal.
The infrastructure plan has bipartisan support but has become caught up in the inter-party war over Biden’s budget package of social programs. Pelosi delayed a vote on it earlier this month as she and party leadership work to bring the two wings of Democrats together.
Joe Biden was last in Scranton on Election Day 2020 as seen above
During that Scranton stop, Biden visited his boyhood home
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, speaks to reporters after liberals met with Biden for two hours at the White House on Tuesday
Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin want Biden’s ambitious social packate scaled back and Biden cannot afford to lose their votes in the Senate
Manchin and Sinema want the social package – paid for with a mix of tax cuts – lowered in size and scope. And, in the evenly divided 50-50 Senate, Biden cannot lose a single Democratic vote.
Meanwhile, progressives, led by Jayapal, have said they will not support Biden’s infrastructure plan without a deal on the package of social programs.
Now, as both sides gather to discuss how to trim the package, progressives are pushing to reduce the duration of many of the programs in the plan but preserve them all – even if its just for a short duration.
Moderates argue for focusing money on a smaller number of programs for the long term.
White House adviser Cedric Richmond told NBC on Wednesday the focus is on the items in the plan and not its price tag – a comment that came as progressives said Biden agreed to their approach in their meeting on Tuesday.
‘The price is not what we’re focused on. We’re focused on making sure we can deliver the programs and services and investments in families and whatever that adds up to, it adds up to,’ Richmond said.
Part of the cuts would be extending the child tax credit by one year instead of the four originally discussed.
Also, Biden’s Clean Energy Plan would go and instead be replaced by tax breaks for energy producers that reach emission-reduction goals, which would better align with Manchin’s priorities.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emerged from a meeting of Senate Democrats on Monday to note that there is ‘universal agreement in that room that we have to come to an agreement, and we’ve got to get it done, and want to get it done this week.’
‘Everyone is going to be disappointed in certain things, but everyone is going to be glad about certain things,’ he noted.
A series of events at the end of the month is driving the push to pass the president’s agenda: transportation funding runs out at the end of October, Biden needs to head to Rome for the G20 summit and Democrats need a win ahead of the Virginia governor’s election, where their candidate Terry McAuliffee is struggling.
The Nov. 2 gubernatorial election in Virginia is being seen a referendum on Biden. The result will be used to forecast Democrats’ chances of retraining control over Congress in next year’s midterm election.