President Joe Biden is set to meet with a small group of House Democrats on Monday, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus chair, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and the former caucus co-chair, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., to discuss a “path forward” and negotiate a lower price tag on the $3.5 trillion spending bill, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during her daily press briefing Monday.
The virtual discussion will focus on “the path forward, which includes the recognition that this package is going to be smaller than originally proposed. And what he wants to hear from them is what their priorities are, what their bottom lines are so he can play a constructive role in moving things forward,” Psaki said.
Progressive Democrats want the spending bill to move in tandem with the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. But some moderates, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have publicly stated that they will not back the bill if the price tag isn’t lowered.
The infighting led to a delay on a House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill last week.
Jayapal on Sunday said the spending bill has “never been about the price tag,” but that the $1.5 trillion topline figure suggested by Manchin is “not going to happen.”
“That’s too small to get our priorities in,” she told CNN. “So, it’s going to be somewhere between $1.5 and $3.5 trillion.”
The safety net bill would expand Medicare, enhance Obamacare subsidies, offer cash payments for raising kids and make universal pre-K free. It would also increase taxes on the wealthy.
“We still have to get to the negotiation,” said Jayapal. “I do think [Biden] also brought a dose of reality to all of us, right? That even if 96 percent agree, there are 4 percent of us who still don’t agree, and we all got to get on the same page.”
Sinema on Saturday blasted the House’s delay on the infrastructure bill, calling it “an ineffective stunt to gain leverage over a separate proposal” and insisted she would not “trade my vote for any political favors.”
Psaki said the White House will “continue pressing forward until we get it done. Yes it requires Sen. Sinema and Sen. Manchin moving forward and supporting a path forward. It also requires agreement on what a package would look like. So the president’s going to continue to work with a range of members from across the Democratic caucus.”