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Divided Democrats to meet with Biden on gridlocked spending deal

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A group of centrist and liberal Senate Democrats will huddle at the White House with President Joe Biden on Wednesday to try to overcome intraparty differences on the scope and cost of a spending bill.

The list of attendees includes centrist Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who represent the biggest hurdle in the quest to pass a $3.5 trillion social welfare spending package.

Liberals include Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and socialist who opposes lowering the cost of the bill.


The meeting comes at a critical time for Democrats and the president.

House Democrats plan to vote next week on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package they have unofficially linked to the $3.5 trillion spending bill.

But liberals are urging House Democrats to block the infrastructure bill until the $3.5 trillion bill passes the House and Senate, which is unlikely by the end of the month.

“We are not going to build bridges just so our people can live under them,” Sanders said last week. “No infrastructure bill without the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.”

The split puts Democratic leaders in a precarious position. They must either postpone the infrastructure vote or see it fail on the floor unless they can convince their liberal wing to pass it in the coming days.

Democrats control a very slim majority. Four “no” votes would sink the bill unless enough Republicans decided to support it. The measure passed with bipartisan support in the Senate but has become increasingly unpopular with the GOP because Democrats have linked it to the social welfare spending package they oppose.

Wednesday’s White House meeting could facilitate passage of the infrastructure deal by helping Senate Democrats reach an agreement on the $3.5 trillion spending package in time to convince liberals it can pass in the near future.

Biden, meanwhile, could use a legislative win that passing the infrastructure bill would immediately provide.

The president’s poll numbers have fallen steadily in the past few weeks following a bungled military withdrawal from Afghanistan, rising COVID-19 cases, climbing inflation, and an out-of-control immigration crisis at the southern border.

Biden has urged Congress to pass the infrastructure deal so he can sign it into law. The Senate approved the $1.2 trillion measure with bipartisan support earlier this summer.

Democrats have so far been unable to agree on the terms of the social welfare spending package.

The bill would provide a wide array of new government entitlements, including free community college, free preschool, paid family and medical leave, expanded Medicare benefits, new child tax credits, and much more.

Both Manchin and Sinema say the bill costs too much. Manchin has pitched a spending limit of $1.5 trillion.

Centrists disagree over the tax increases Democrats seek to pay for the measure.


Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who will attend Wednesday’s White House meeting, opposes planned changes to taxing capital gains that critics say would hurt family-owned farms.

In addition to opposing the high cost of the measure, Sinema objects to proposed changes that would allow the federal government to negotiate Medicare drug prices, a move critics say will hurt innovation.

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Tags: News, Congress, Infrastructure, government spending, Joe Biden, Joe Manchin, Bernie Sanders, Kyrsten Sinema

Original Author: Susan Ferrechio

Original Location: Divided Democrats to meet with Biden on gridlocked spending deal

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