President Biden was heading to the Capitol on Friday to huddle with his Democrats and try to salvage faltering bills for massive spending on infrastructure and social welfare, the White House said.
The visit follows a morning meeting of the House Democratic Caucus that failed to resolve the split in the party that has put in jeopardy both Mr. Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and his $3.5 trillion expansion of the social safety net.
The caucus meeting broke up around noon with no deal in sight and members talking about negotiating through the weekend.
On one side of the split are moderate Democrats leery of the giant spending bill but eager to approve $1.2 trillion of road, bridge, airport and public transit projects. That measure also has Republican support.
On the other side, the party’s progressive wing doesn’t want to let the infrastructure spending pass without an iron-clad deal to get the social welfare and climate change programs approved.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, leader of the House Democrats’ left wing, said there was some tension during the meeting.
Rep. Angie Craig, Minnesota Democrat, emerged from the closed-door powwow and said she saw one bright side to the infighting.
“We didn’t use any swear words in the meeting this morning,” she said. “That’s always good.”
At least one moderate House Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, predicted a deal to vote on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package would not happen on Friday, despite assurance from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“It won’t happen today,” Mr. Cuellar said as he left the caucus meeting.
Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, has broken promises made to moderates for a vote Monday and then Thursday, delaying it each time because there were not enough Democratic votes to pass it.
The Democrats planned to meet again Friday afternoon. A top House Democrat said he believes Mr. Biden’s visit is a sign that intensive negotiations over the past 48 hours are close to producing an agreement.
“I think we are going to close the deal,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Mr. Biden believed it was “the right time for him to go up there” to speak with lawmakers.
“These are his proposals. These are his bold ideas,” she said. “He wants to speak directly to members, answer their questions and make the case for why we should all work together to give the American people some breathing room.”
Ms. Psaki pushed back on criticism, including from Democrats, that Mr. Biden was getting involved in the negotiations too late in the process.
“Anyone who’s ever been through a legislative fight before knows that the negotiations and deal-making always happens at the end,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how the process works or how many weeks there are, it always happens at the end.”
But Ms. Psaki declined to say if she was optimistic a deal could be struck Friday, referring questions about the timing of a potential vote to Mrs. Pelosi.
On the other side of the Capitol, White House negotiations were expected to continue with moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. They’ve been the chief obstacle to passing the massive spending bill, which they insist is too expensive.
Negotiators said Friday the larger proposal could be scaled back to roughly $2.1 trillion.
Democrats need the support all 50 of their members in the Senate to force the bill through the chamber.
Ms. Jayapal, chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, vowed that progressives would vote down the infrastructure package unless moderates allow the larger social welfare and climate package to pass.
“The reason I want to vote is because I want to be assured that there is no delay and that there’s no misunderstandings about what we agreed to,” she said.
Mr. Manchin on Thursday said he would not agree to spending more than $1.5 trillion, less than half of what Mr. Biden and liberal Democrats want.
The House’s delay of a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package is drawing heat from Democratic allies who stand to benefit from the jobs its projects would create.
Laborers’ International Union of North America, a progressive union that represents 500,000 U.S. and Canadian workers in the construction trades, blasted the delays on Friday.
“After all the chaos caused in Congress by the Tea Party, it’s demoralizing to see so-called Progressives using the same tactics,” union vice president Dennis L. Martire said in a statement to the Washington Times. “If they think our members are going to forget that they decided to take our jobs hostage, they’re deluding themselves. Every time they delay this vote, progressives are bleeding votes that the party won’t be able to get back.”