After running on unifying a divided America, President Joe Biden has acted as the peacemaker, nurturing the fragile order between moderates and progressives in his fractured party.
But with a fierce stalemate between the two opposing wings in a make-or-break week, Biden leaned left on Saturday with a suggestion that centrist Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema were to blame for the Democrats‘ infrastructure stalemate.
“We can bring the moderates and progressives together very easily if we had two more votes. Two. Two people,” Biden told reporters, taking a veiled jab at key holdouts Manchin and Sinema.
A vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was delayed this week after progressive and moderate Democrats failed to reach an agreement on an ambitious $3.5 trillion spending bill, a crucial part of Biden’s domestic agenda known as the Build Back Better Act.
Manchin and Sinema refused to support the size and scope of the larger package, and progressives rebelled, saying they would not vote for the infrastructure bill unless it’s passed in tandem with the spending package.
With the two factions at odds, Democrats returned to the negotiating table Friday, with Biden telling the caucus it’s “just reality” that the infrastructure bill won’t succeed if Manchin and Sinema don’t get onboard with the larger package. He acknowledged that reaching a deal could take weeks.
“It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in six minutes, six days or six weeks. We’re going to get it done,” the president said.
Among the major investments, the “hard infrastructure” bill includes funding for roads and highways, bridges, broadband development, water support and airport projects. The “human” spending bill provides funding to fight climate change, expand health care and deliver free two-year community college.
After the closed-door meeting, Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Biden “was very clear that we need to get both bills done.”
“We understand that we don’t always get to vote on things that we’d like 100 percent,” the Washington Democrat said. “It’s the other folks, the four percent that are blocking the president’s agenda, the Democratic agenda that we ran on, who need to recognize that.”
Bowing to progressives, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her caucus Friday night that the infrastructure bill “will pass once we have agreement on the reconciliation bill,” dealing another blow to the moderate wing.
Sinema, who returned home to Arizona Friday, framed progressives as the culprits holding up Biden’s agenda in a statement released Saturday.
“The failure of the U.S. House to hold a vote on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is inexcusable and deeply disappointing for communities across our country,” the moderate Democrat said. “Denying Americans millions of good-paying jobs, safer roads, cleaner water, more reliable electricity, and better broadband, only hurts everyday families.”
Newsweek reached out to Manchin for comment.