Democrats involved in negotiations over a proposed $3.5 trillion budget bill and an accompanying $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill conceded Sunday that the price tag of the former legislation is likely to decrease amid negotiations with moderate Democrats, affirming what President Joe Biden told House Democrats in a closed-door meeting on Friday.
Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to Biden and a former member of Congress, said in a Meet The Press interview “people will be disappointed. People will not get everything they want” in infrastructure negotiations, adding, “That is the art of legislating.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said in a CNN State of the Union interview he supports $3.5 trillion but, just as in negotiations he was involved in over the Affordable Care Act, there will be “concessions,” which, he said, will “lead to a different number.”
The comments come as the White House and Democratic leaders are still trying to broker an agreement with moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have firmly ruled out supporting a $3.5 trillion package.
Progressives are still declining to vote to pass the infrastructure bill, which focuses on “core” projects like roads, bridges and waterways, until there is an agreement on the budget bill, which focuses on social programs like Medicare and the Child Tax Credit.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a progressive leader who has fought hard for $3.5 trillion in spending, said on CNN the $1.5 trillion figure put forward by Manchin is “not going to happen,” but said the final cost will likely fall between $1.5 and $3.5 trillion.
That was echoed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), who, like Jayapal, initially favored a $6 trillion proposal, but who said in an ABC This Week interview that while he views $3.5 trillion as a “minimum,” he also accepts there is “going to have to be give and take.”
Biden visited Capitol Hill on Friday to speak to a House Democratic Caucus meeting, a development widely interpreted as a win for progressives. He told lawmakers he sees the infrastructure and social spending bills as linked and suggested the price for the social spending bill will likely fall between $1.9 and $2.2 trillion, members who were in the room told Forbes.
“That was historic,” Durbin said of Biden’s trip to the Capitol, even as some moderates in both parties balked at the display. “It shows he wasn’t going to stand on the sidelines and issue tweets. He rolled up his sleeves and… traveled to Capitol Hill.”
51. That’s the number of votes needed for the budget bill to pass through a process called reconciliation, which allows certain fiscal legislation to circumvent the Senate filibuster’s 60-vote threshold but still requires support from all 50 Senate Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris.
What To Watch For
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set a new deadline to pass the infrastructure bill, once again putting congressional Democrats on the path to a showdown. The speaker said in a letter to House Democrats on Saturday she wants it passed before October 31, but it’s not clear whether Manchin and Sinema will reach a resolution with the White House by then.