President Biden enters the most seismic week of his legislative agenda explicitly set to miss one deadline and implicitly knowing he’ll soon have to bow to a Republican blockade on another.
Feverish talks over the course of the weekend led to a rhetorical intraparty pressure release, but still left Democrats miles away from a clear pathway forward on their sweeping $4 trillion dual-pronged agenda, according to multiple people directly involved.
Every piece of Biden’s agenda is on the line this week.
The vote on his $1.2 trillion Senate-passed infrastructure bill is now expected to happen on Thursday. The policy gaps in Democrats’ multi-trillion dollar social safety net are significant, even as Democratic leaders say they plan to bring it to the floor this week for consideration.
And Republicans are determined to block Democrats’ efforts to have them help raise the debt ceiling Monday night.
It’s a mess, but those three items — despite self-imposed deadlines, promises from leaders and the wishes of various wings of the Democratic party — don’t have to be dealt with this week.
The government funding bill does. And, if we get to the end of the week without a resolution on that one issue, the federal government shuts down.
Biden, upon returning from Camp David, hit at the same point as House Democrats — this is going to take some time.
“I’m optimistic about this week,” Biden told reporters, adding, “it’s going to take the better part of the week, I think.”
Biden was on the phone with lawmakers throughout the weekend and his lead legislative negotiators Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese have been more or less working straight through the last several days and nights, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Overall, White House officials have been anxious about the path forward even though there remains, in the words of one official, “pretty explicit trust that history shows if the speaker is involved, it’s going to go our way.”
Yet nobody has a clear sense of the exact path forward on the pair of bills that make up not just Biden’s domestic agenda but also the central tenet of his presidency: that showing government can work will serve as the key to calming the rancorous anti-Washington fervor sweeping the country.
Those are the real stakes here for Biden. It’s not a whip count, or a specific policy dispute. He’s made clear, repeatedly, it’s so much bigger than that in his view. In playing the expectations game for these bills, Biden hasn’t hedged. And now it’s all on the line.
Read more about where things stand here.