Biden Meets With Democratic Moderates as Progressives Grumble
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden met Monday with two moderate Democratic senators crucial to his massive infrastructure proposal as well as voting rights legislation even as his party’s progressives complain that he’s giving away too much in pursuit of elusive compromise.
Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had separate afternoon sessions with the president, according to a White House official.
Biden and Manchin, the person said, discussed voting rights and how to advance a bill in the evenly divided Senate. They also talked about infrastructure. The meeting with Sinema also concerned infrastructure, the official added.
Manchin is the only Senate Democrat who hasn’t signed on to the Senate version of a sweeping overhaul of election laws that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will try to bring to the floor despite a lack of any Republican support. With the Senate split 50-50 between the two parties, 10 GOP votes would be needed to end a filibuster under Senate rules even with Manchin’s backing.
The legislation has languished even as Republicans in statehouses across the country have been passing new restrictions on voting.
Last week, Manchin delivered a list of changes he wanted in a voting rights bill. His proposal was endorsed by the voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, a Georgia Democrat, but swiftly rejected by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Manchin told reporters Monday night he hasn’t decided whether to vote to begin debate on the bill and will look at it overnight to decide.
Both Manchin and Sinema are among a group of 21 senators seeking a bipartisan approach to infrastructure.
Negotiations continue, and some of the senators said on Monday that they were moving closer to an agreement.
But Biden aides warned that they are continuing to explore other legislative pathways and will not support certain tax increases as part of a final deal.
Manchin and other moderates have so far refused to commit to supporting a massive spending bill that would be passed on a party-line vote.
At the same time, progressive Democrats in the House and Senate say they may not back an infrastructure package that includes concessions to Republicans without a guarantee that their priorities -- on climate, health care and social welfare -- will be accommodated in follow-up budget legislation.
In a Washington Post op-ed published on Monday night, Sinema, who supports the voting rights For the People Act, reiterated her opposition to eliminating the filibuster, which requires a minimum of 60 votes to approve most legislation. She pointed out that Democrats have successfully deployed the filibuster when they were in the minority, and argued that they might need that weapon again.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.