President Biden is slated to hold a series of meetings on Wednesday with Democratic lawmakers, including party leaders, as he attempts to head off an intraparty war between moderates and progressives that could derail his $4 trillion economic agenda.
Biden is expected to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as a broad range of Democrats from across the ideological spectrum, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The burst of meetings comes as Democrats jockey for control in a narrowly divided Congress, a battle that could ultimately derail both parts of Biden's agenda: The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a second, multitrillion-dollar package that Democrats plan to pass along party lines via budget reconciliation.
"I hope he has the secret sauce," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said of Biden on Tuesday night. "The president of the United States is always a very influential figure, and I know he wants both bills passed."
At the heart of the division is a fight for leverage over the size and scope of the reconciliation bill: Progressives say that $3.5 trillion is the bare minimum needed to vastly expand the social safety net and combat climate change. Centrists, however, are wary of another multitrillion-dollar bill – funded by a slew of new taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations, no less – after the coronavirus pandemic pushed the U.S. deficit to a record high.
With their incredibly slim congressional majorities, Democrats face a delicate balancing act in pursuing their so-called "two-track" agenda – approving both a bipartisan deal and a larger tax and spending bill – or they risk losing the support of either moderate or progressive members.
In the House, where Pelosi has just three seats to spare, it's possible the progressive lawmakers could torpedo the bipartisan deal if it's not tethered to the larger reconciliation package that would build as the basis of President Biden's economic agenda and establish health, education and environment programs.
Pelosi last month committed to a Sept. 27 deadline to vote on the infrastructure bill, which includes more than $500 billion in new funding for traditional projects like roads and bridges, in order to squelch a minor rebellion from centrist lawmakers.
But progressive lawmakers are seeking similar assurances that the comprehensive spending package doesn't crumble amid some pushback from moderates in both the House and Senate, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Manchin has called for a "pause" in the reconciliation bill that Democrats plan to pass along a party-line vote.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has remained adamant that her members will not vote for the Senate-approved infrastructure bill until the upper chamber also passes the $3.5 trillion bill.
Asked Tuesday about whether progressives were bluffing on their threat to vote down the bipartisan plan, Jayapal said: "Try us."
At the same time, moderate Democrats are also vowing to rebel if the left manages to upend the infrastructure bill that Biden has touted as a major bipartisan accomplishment. Democrats are still crafting the bigger spending bill as they haggle over the specifics of what to include and how to pay for it.
"This is critically important to the White House," Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., said. "I’m optimistic we’ll not only get it to the floor, but we’ll get the votes."
FOX Business' Hillary Vaughn contributed to this report