As President Joe Biden’s domestic priorities stall in Washington, he delivered a dire warning about the status of America to a union workers’ facility outside of Detroit, on Tuesday. It was his first voter-facing address and told the Michigan audience that “we’re at an inflection point” and “we risk losing our edge as a nation” and being surpassed by other nations if the investments are not made.
Biden’s Build Back Better agenda is gridlocked, as congressional Democrats refused to vote for a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill unless it’s tied to the passage of a sweeping $3.5 trillion budget bill that addresses many key party issues, such as childcare, climate change and more.
Biden, in his pitch, framed his agenda as one bolstering the U.S. economy’s competitiveness on the world stage, emphasizing the need to invest as a way to outpace China. Beijing has spent three times as much on infrastructure as the U.S. has, according to Biden’s estimation.
Meanwhile, moderate Senators Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WVA), have objected to the price tag of the larger bill. In the 50-50 Senate, the margin for Democrats is zero objections, as Republicans are unanimously opposed to the larger spending plan. Democrats control a narrow House majority and can afford to lose only a few votes in that chamber.
The objections have already forced Biden to directly haggle with his own party’s lawmakers to support his agenda. He met with 11 House Democrats as part of his ongoing campaign to woo votes on Monday. And now he’s taking this effort on the road.
Democratic leaders are trying to determine if a scaled-back price tag, perhaps closer to $2 trillion, can appease both ideological wings of their party. There does appear to be progress on the second spending bill after his meetings with progressives and moderates on Monday and Tuesday. Biden even threw out the option of a $1.9 trillion-$2.2 trillion package. That’s far less than the $6 trillion wanted by Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the leader of congressional progressives wanted. But it might be low enough to attract his two reluctant colleagues.
Manchin has said he wants to cap the package at $1.5 trillion, but on Tuesday, did not rule out the higher range. Biden, meanwhile, has been confident some kind of deal will get done and seemed please that Manchin had not rejected the middle number.
“Well, you heard him on TV today. It sure sounds like he’s moving. I hope that’s the case,” Biden told reporters after his address Tuesday.