Congress returns this week to face another self-imposed and unnecessary deadline: getting the budget reconciliation bill that will include whichever parts of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema haven’t vetoed (on behalf of the corporate interests that sponsor them) passed by the end of the month.
The House will be in session but voting on nothing of consequence while budget reconciliation negotiations continue, and Senate Democrats will again try to salvage voting rights, but will fail because of the filibuster (which Manchin and Sinema remain intent on preserving).
There are reports that congressional Democrats are frustrated with President Biden’s passivity and caution in pushing his agenda on Build Back Better and what it can mean for the midterms. “You don’t want to get to a point where we look so indecisive that it can’t be repaired with the package that’s going to pass and start impacting people’s lives,” Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat running for his state’s open Senate seat next year, told CNN. An anonymous House Democrat also told CNN, “The reality right now is that a lot of people are saying, ‘Where’s Joe Biden? This is his agenda, why isn’t he more involved in the negotiations?’”
Possibly in response to those complaints, Biden has publicly reengaged. On Sunday, the White House tweeted out this message about the child care provisions in the plan.
Biden is headed out on the road again to tout the plan beginning on Wednesday in his birthplace: Scranton, Pennsylvania. “The president is certainly feeling an urgency to move things forward, to get things done,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “I think you’ve seen that urgency echoed by members on the Hill that time is not unending here.”
He is also having a week of meetings with congressional Democrats, beginning with Congressional Progressive Caucus leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Monday. The Washington state Democrat articulated her message going into that meeting Sunday: “Let me be clear. This is not just some crazy progressive wishlist that nobody else agrees with. This is President Joe Biden’s agenda. This is the agenda that Democrats in the House, the Senate and the White House were elected on.”
That message was echoed in an opinion piece in The New York Times profiling Jayapal titled “Pramila Jayapal Won’t Let the Biden Presidency Fail”:
She led her fellow progressives in blocking a maneuver by the Sabotage Squad of conservative House members to vote in the hard infrastructure bill crafted by conservative Democrats and Republicans and passed by the Senate. The two bills have been linked by Biden and congressional leadership for months in order to ensure that everyone gets a win. Keeping that hard infrastructure bill was critical, Jayapal argues, to make sure Biden’s agenda stays alive. “We’re going to get both bills done,” she told the Times’ Michelle Goldberg.
It’s the key to not just Biden’s success, Jayapal says, but to retaining a Democratic majority. “I would argue that had Democrats done some of these things 10 years ago, we would have a lot of the working-class voters that are white in Republican districts.” She repeated her message: “This is the president’s agenda, that he delivered in a speech to Congress and told us to bring him legislation that gets that done,” she said. “He himself said he wrote the damn bills.”
Biden will also follow up with an in-person meeting with members of the progressive caucus and with members of the Sabotage Squad on Tuesday, and presumably continue talks with Manchin and Sinema. So far neither have said what they are for in the bill: They’ve just demanded that things be cut from it.