Biden, key senators huddle as Dems drive toward budget deal

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a key holdout vote on President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, chairs a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, at the Capitol in Washington Tuesday. (AP photo)

WASHINGTON — Deadline driven, President Joe Biden brought two pivotal senators to his Delaware home Sunday for talks aimed at resolving the disputes that have stymied the Democrats’ wide-ranging social safety net and environmental measure at the core of his domestic agenda.

Beyond the domestic timetable, Biden is pressing for progress so he can spotlight his administration’s achievements to world leaders at overseas summits that get underway this week.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she expected an agreement on a framework by week’s end, paving the way for a House vote on a separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill before next Sunday, when a series of transportation programs will lapse.

“That’s the plan,” she said.

The White House said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., came to Biden’s home in Wilmington, where he was spending the weekend, for the session but did not immediately provide a statement detailing what was discussed.

Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., two of their party’s most moderate members, have insisted on reducing the size of the enormous package and have pressed for other changes.

Pelosi said she was waiting for the Senate to wrap up talks and was expecting a plan to be introduced as early as today. Top Democrats are scrambling to have a framework so they can move to pass the infrastructure bill, which progressives in the House have held up as leverage to force agreement on the bigger package of health care, education and environment initiatives.

“I think we’re pretty much there,” said Pelosi, stressing that a few “last decisions” need to be made. “It is less than what was projected to begin with, but it’s still bigger than anything we have ever done in terms of addressing the needs of America’s working families.”

Democrats initially planned that the measure would contain $3.5 trillion worth of spending and tax initiatives over 10 years. But demands by moderates led by Manchin and Sinema to contain costs mean its final price tag could well be less than $2 trillion.

Disputes remain over whether some priorities must be cut or excluded. These include plans to expand Medicare coverage, child care assistance and helping lower-income college students. Manchin, whose state has a major coal industry, has opposed proposals to penalize utilities that do not switch quickly to clean energy.


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