Psaki says Biden to negotiate lower price tag with progressives on $3.5T spending bill

White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that President Biden will host a virtual meeting with progressive House members to negotiate a lower price tag on the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. 

Biden will meet with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus later Monday “in order to have a discussion about the path forward, which includes the recognition that this package is going to be smaller than originally proposed,” Psaki said during her daily press briefing.

“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,” she added.

Psaki said Biden will hold another meeting with moderate Democrats later this week, which will also be virtual because the House is out of session.

Progressive Democrats want the reconciliation bill to move in tandem with the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill already passed by the Senate. A House vote on the reconciliation bill was delayed last week after progressives vowed to vote against the smaller bill if the reconciliation bill isn’t also passed by the Senate. 

Moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have vowed to block the reconciliation bill if the price tag isn’t lowered.

The infighting could result in the Democrats failure to deliver on two major pieces of legislation furthering Biden’s domestic agenda.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Sunday that the reconciliation bill has “never been about the price tag” but that a $1.5 trillion topline price suggested by moderates like 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 congresswoman said she didn’t have a “counter offer” yet, adding that “this is the beginning of the negotiation.” She did say, however, that a compromise could include funding all the social programs that progressives want, like the child tax credit and paid family leave, but for a shorter period of time.

“Our idea now is to look at how you make them funded for a little bit of a shorter time,” she said.

Jayapal said programs in the bill cutting carbon emissions are non-negotiable and that she would unequivocally vote against anything containing the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds from being used toward abortion services. Manchin has said the bill is “dead on arrival” if it did not include the Hyde Amendment. 

Psaki reiterated Monday that the president is against the Hyde Amendment, but she declined to say where Biden stood on the amendment’s inclusion as part of the negotiations.

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