WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is shifting his strategy to sell his ambitious social spending plans by traveling out of Washington and wooing the moderate Democrats who are key to any deal’s hopes.
Biden is expected to speak at 3 p.m. EST today. Watch the president’s remarks in the player above.
With his agenda in jeopardy on Capitol Hill, Biden will visit the Michigan district of a moderate Democratic lawmaker on Tuesday who urged him to promote his proposals more aggressively to the public. Back in Washington, negotiations continue on a pair of bills aimed at increasing spending on social protection, health and environmental programs and infrastructure projects.
While there is cautious optimism about recent progress, no deal has been reached to bridge the deep divides between moderates and progressives in the Democratic Party over the size and scope of the package. In recent weeks, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi worked unsuccessfully to get the bills passed, Biden has stayed in Washington to cajole lawmakers and work phones.
Now he’s trying to focus public attention on the popular components of invoices rather than the debate inside the Beltway over their price.
The president will appear with Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin during her visit to a union training center in Howell, Mich., Reflecting the importance of securing moderate votes. Beside Biden, the Democrats most at stake over the form and success of his spending plans are members of the House of Swing Districts whose re-elections are critical if his party is to retain control of Congress.
As he seeks a breakthrough in the negotiations, Biden held a virtual meeting with House moderates on Tuesday before leaving Washington. He held a similar session the day before with a dozen progressives.
Democratic lawmakers have warned that Biden’s bold ideas are getting lost in internal squabbles and party procedural skirmishes over the legislation.
“We need to communicate to the country the transformative nature of the initiatives in the legislation,” Pelosi said in a letter to lawmakers ahead of Biden’s trip.
The visit to the Slotkin district, narrowly carried by Republican Donald Trump in 2020, is part of the commercial effort.
Slotkin supports a bipartisan $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill that was passed by the Senate, but prefers to pass it in the House before negotiating the broader $ 3.5 trillion package of social programs. She has indicated that she could vote to approve the larger bill if it is fiscally responsible and can make a difference for families, her assistants said, but she is not a guaranteed yes – which she does. planned to tell Biden on Tuesday.
“To be honest, it was difficult for me to understand why the leadership decided to tie the two bills in the first place,” Slotkin recently told the Detroit News. âThis is not how we normally operate. It is not my preference.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that after Biden has spent a lot of time in the past few days in the messy negotiations on the bills, “now it’s also important to remind people, because sausage-making has been sort of the dominant scenario for the last few weeks, what it is, why he’s fighting so hard for it.
Biden last week postponed a trip to Chicago, where he planned to promote coronavirus vaccine mandates and work on a case for his program, in order to stay in Washington and put pressure on lawmakers. He postponed this trip until Thursday, and more trips are expected in the coming days.
The rise in travel aims to build public support for a wide range of initiatives presented under the vague slogan of “Build Back Better”. A series of crises, from Afghanistan to COVID-19, along with the convoluted legislative process have hampered the White House’s ability to push for the massive package or even say definitively what will be in the final version.
Polls suggest that elements of the bill such as expanding childcare options and infrastructure projects are popular with much of the public. But even some of the White House’s closest allies fear the West Wing hasn’t done enough to sell it.
Biden, aides said, was eager to shift the conversation from the price to the benefits of the legislation. In Michigan, he planned to brag about the benefits for the middle class and unionized workers.
Washington was gripped by the drama last week as lawmakers grappled with the massive Democrats-only social spending bill tied to the infrastructure bill. Progressives were reluctant to reduce the size of the $ 3.5 trillion social package and refused to vote for the infrastructure bill if the other bill shrinks. Moderate Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing for the bipartisan infrastructure bill to get a vote in the House first, and some are wary of the size of the much larger social spending bill.
It leaves Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress at a crossroads, trying to get past the tangle of legislation and remind voters what they’re trying to accomplish.
With considerable attention focused on winning over two key Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, grassroots lawmakers could benefit from Biden’s high-level backing to champion his vision to the public. .
Members of the House are rolling out to their home quarters this week as public opinions on Biden’s agenda form. Senators are staying in Washington but working on another tangle, the legislation needed to raise the country’s debt limit by mid-month to avert a devastating credit default.
Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and White House officials gathered in a room next to the Senate on Monday evening to discuss next steps in passing Biden’s agenda.
These behind-the-scenes discussions are intense as Biden cuts the size and scope of the $ 3.5 trillion social spending program to win Manchin, Sinema and a small group of conservative Democrats in the House without alienating the Progressives, who are are fighting to keep their priorities in the bill.
Associated Press editors Lisa Mascaro in Washington and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this report.