Biden shrugs off infrastructure vote delay, is confident about passing both major bills

Another day on Capitol Hill with no vote on infrastructure and no deal on a bigger spending package. But as Lisa Desjardins reports, President Joe Biden was on the scene to make a direct appeal to Democrats. Desjardins and Amna Nawaz join Judy Woodruff to discuss how the day played out.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Another day on Capitol Hill with no vote on infrastructure and no deal on a bigger spending package.

    But, as Lisa Desjardins reports, President Biden made a direct appeal to Democrats.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Not an everyday sight, a president on Capitol Hill. And the goal of President Biden's visit with House Democrats today, to get his agenda back on track.

  • President Joe Biden:

    I'm telling you, we're going to get this done.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • President Joe Biden:

    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.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    House Democrats began this day fractured still over whether to go ahead and hold a vote now on a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill.

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY):

    We're working through these issues. And I believe, as we always do, we are going to land the plane.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi had promised to call a vote, being specific with reporters yesterday.

  • Question:

    Are you committed to having a vote on infrastructure today?

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

    Yes.

  • Question:

    Regardless of whether you have the votes or not?

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

    I intend to.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But the day ended with no vote.

    Some House progressives led by Pramila Jayapal remained firm holdouts, seeking more commitments on an even larger bill covering climate, health care and other priorities. Jayapal expressed a handshake deal isn't good enough.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA):

    I have consistently said that we need a vote in the Senate, because I want to make sure there are no delays, that there are no mixups, that there are no mixed understandings about what the deal is.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But the fate of the larger so-called reconciliation bill also hinges on moderate Senate Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. Both say it must be smaller than what progressives want.

    Amidst it all, some House Democrats said they wanted more from Biden.

  • Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN):

    The time is now. He has that singular power to unify them.

  • Question:

    So, he could be doing more at this point?

  • Rep. Dean Phillips:

    I think he could be doing more in front of us, yes.

  • Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN):

    Very few of us have seen the president in the nine months he's been president.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The White House has said Biden is engaging and had been making calls to Democrats around the clock. He scrapped a planned event in Chicago to focus on finding an agreement this week on the Hill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa is here with me now in the studio, along with Amna Nawaz covering the White House today.

    So, hello to both of you.

    Lisa, looks like a lot of action, but no clear movement toward any vote. Where does everything stand?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I do not think there will be an infrastructure vote tonight. There will be a vote on something else, though.

    In that infrastructure bill was the reauthorization for the Highway Trust Fund. That ran out last night at midnight, so Democrats have to deal with that. We expect a 30-day extension of that. There's no real problems from a day lag in that or a few days' lag in that. They will take action.

    But, overall, Democrats now are doing something that one member said is redoing the conversation from scratch.

    I want to talk about this issue about Pelosi's promise to have that infrastructure vote today. She said that yesterday. Let's figure out what happened there. I want to explain this to people.

    For you and I, Judy, a day is 24 hours. That seems very normal, right? But, however, there is a legislative day. And, here, Pelosi is talking about something that can go on indefinitely. We are still in the legislative day of September 30 in the House of Representatives. A legislative day can go on forever.

    In fact, one time, the late Senator Robert Byrd had one go on for over 100 calendar days, so a little bit of a Jedi mind trick there, I think, that Pelosi is pulling. We will see if she actually ends this legislative day and says, we need more time.

    When you talk to members, it is clear that the president's visit tonight was a huge morale boost and, moreover, it provided clarity that they needed that he's still on board both of these bills moving at the same time, not one in front of the other. That was important clarity that members didn't have.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And speaking of the president, Amna, we were hearing some Democratic members expressing frustration there that the president hasn't been as visible on this.

    What is your understanding of just how involved he is right now?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    When you ask the White House, where has the president been, they said, well, he's been very involved. The White House has been involved all along.

    They point again and again to a team of senior advisers and senior staff who they say have been in close contact with every group and every faction of the Democratic Caucus. Here's the group that they point to. We have seen them before. They're leading the charge on Capitol Hill.

    Susan Rice, of course, leads the Domestic Policy Council. Ron Klain is the chief of staff, Brian Deese, who heads the Economic Council, Louisa Terrell, who heads legislative affairs, and Steve Ricchetti, of course, who's a senior counselor to the president.

    The White House says, look, many of them were on the Hill until midnight last night. Since September 1, there have been over 300 calls and meetings with members and staff directors. They say, we have been making the case, we have been there, we have been involved.

    But, today, they say — and Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about this in the briefing — today was the day President Biden felt was the day to go make the case directly to those members, reassure them, we will get there, compromises will be reached, they have to be made, both sides have to give a little.

    No direct timeline. But he wants to reassure them they're moving forward, he's committed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, one of the thing that's become clear is that it's not going to be a $3.5 trillion social spending bill, whatever the name of it is, reconciliation. It's going to be a number lower than that.

    What are you hearing from the White House about what they are willing to live with?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, of course, we are pressing again and again, trying to get a number from them. What are you comfortable with? What do you think the president would sign off on?

    The two names we heard more than any other names in the briefing today, senators Manchin and Sinema. They know they have to get some kind of guidance from them and, at the same time, reassure progressives that big agenda is going to move forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, finally, back to you.

    Where does it go from here, if you don't expect a vote tonight? And what does this mean for the Democrats? I mean, this was their chance to put their stamp on what's going to happen in this country.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It's even more clear today, Judy, that this is really the beginning, the earnest beginning of negotiations.

    And at this beginning point, where the conversation is behind closed doors, I have sources — and Yamiche has reported this before too — the conversation seems to be around $2 trillion to $2.5 trillion. Even some progressive said that maybe they can accept something in that area.

    Of course, there's a big conversation about, then, what is it that gets cut? That's what they're going to have to do soon. But I think, for the next week, it is going to be about what size that both sides can perhaps get their hands around, probably not a firm number, but somewhere in that $2 to $2.5 trillion is what we're talking about right now.

    I also will say it seems like this has been a chaotic week for Democrats. Speaker Pelosi pledged a vote. That vote didn't happen. That's not good for speaker. But I want to remind people that the Affordable Care Act took over eight months to get through Congress. And, on that vote, the Affordable Care Act in the House, Democrats lost 39 of their members, and they still passed it.

    Here, Speaker Pelosi can only lose three. That's why this is so much harder. And the Affordable Care Act was also difficult. So this is really threading the tiniest of legislative needles.

    But I think — I have to say I was convinced by both progressives and moderates today that they are talking more in unison, they're moving towards similar goals. Once they get down to the details, it's going to get hard again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, of course, they have known all along how tight this margin is.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes, that's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So we will see.

    Lisa Desjardins, Amna Nawaz, thank you both.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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