Days after he failed to gain enough support in his own party to approve two crucial pieces of his agenda, President Biden on Monday insisted he’s doing all he can as he blamed fellow Democrats and the Senate Republican leader for his legislative troubles.
Following a White House address where he urged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to set aside a filibuster on raising the debt limit, admitting to reporters afterward that he “can’t” guarantee the US won’t hit the debt ceiling, Biden was pressed on why he was unable to get key members of the Democratic Party on board with his infrastructure and social spending agenda last week.
“I have been able to close a deal with 99 percent of my party — two people,” he said, appearing to reference Sens. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), who have both vowed to vote against Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package at its current price tag.
“That’s still underway,” Biden said of negotiations.
“I don’t think there’s been a president that has been able to close deals that has been in a position where he has only 50 votes in the Senate and a bare majority in the House,” Biden griped, despite heading into Friday’s visit to the House of Representatives knowing he needed to move those two senators to forge a deal. “It’s a process.”
The president was pushed further and specifically asked if he was putting the blame “squarely on two US senators for his inability to close that deal.”
“Look, I need 50 votes in the Senate. I have 48,” Biden replied.
Last Thursday, the House was set to vote on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, but that vote was delayed after Democrats were unable to garner the votes to pass it.
The back-and-forth stemmed from a disagreement between progressives and moderates over the budget reconciliation. Progressives vowed to tank the infrastructure bill if the massive reconciliation bill wasn’t passed first, while moderates, specifically Manchin and Sinema, refused to sign off on the $3.5 trillion price tag.
Biden traveled to Capitol Hill on Friday to address the Democratic Caucus, telling members that the bipartisan infrastructure bill would not proceed until Democrats reach an agreement on the larger social spending bill.
While Manchin has offered a topline of $1.5 trillion for the spending bill, Sinema’s topline remains unknown. Both have met with Biden repeatedly amid negotiations.
Biden was pressed on what Sinema’s topline would be on Monday, but he declined to give a number publicly.
The president was also asked what size he personally thinks the reconciliation package should be, to which Biden said he already “laid out what I thought it should be [and] it’s not going to be that, it’s going to be less.”
“Both the Build Back Better piece, as well as the infrastructure piece, are things that I wrote,” Biden said. “These didn’t come from — God love ‘em — Bernie Sanders or AOC or anybody else, I wrote them.”
Biden’s comments came following his remarks urging Republicans to vote for raising the debt ceiling or “get out of the way.”
As he faces being unable to pass another piece of his agenda by raising the debt ceiling, Biden put the pressure on McConnell, saying “it’s up” to him.
Just before Biden’s remarks, McConnell sent a letter to the president telling him Democrats would need to raise it on their own.
“Since mid-July, Republicans have clearly stated that Democrats will need to raise the debt limit on their own. All year, your party has chosen to pursue staggering, ‘transformational’ spending through unprecedented use of the party-line reconciliation process,” McConnell said. “I have relayed this reality to your Democratic lieutenants for two and a half months.”
Biden told reporters he plans to speak with McConnell about the letter, but still believes the “easiest way to do this” is to vote on what is in the Senate to raise the debt limit.