Democrats scrambling for reconciliation deal, seek to get infrastructure to Biden before overseas trip

Biden's attendance to climate summit and Virginia election are pressuring Dems to seal deal

Democrats are scrambling to reach a deal on their massive reconciliation bill this week so that progressives will stop their blockade of the infrastructure bill that's stalled in the House before President Biden leaves the U.S. for a climate summit.

Biden will leave for Rome, Italy on Thursday to meet with Pope Francis and attend a G20 leaders' summit. But for Democrats who want the U.S. to be a leader on climate issues globally, the more meaningful part of his international trip will happen Monday when he goes to Glasgow, Scotland for a two-day climate forum.

"Here's the thing: The president looked at us in the eye and he said, ‘I need this before I go represent the United States in Glasgow,’" Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said on "Fox News Sunday."

"American prestige is on the line," he added.  

President Joe Biden holds his face mask and waves as he exits Air Force One at Capital Region International Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, in Lansing, Michigan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci / AP Newsroom)


On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., visited Biden at his Wilmington, Delaware, home for yet more talks on the reconciliation bill. Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice, who is one of the White House aides most involved in the negotiations, was also spotted in Wilmington.

The Associated Press reported that Manchin could support the White House's extremely complex wealth tax in the reconciliation bill. But there are still plenty of outstanding issues that Democrats will need to agree on, from child care to tax credits to the specifics of climate provisions. 

And it's Khanna and his Congressional Progressive Caucus who blocked the bipartisan infrastructure bill – which does include some climate provisions – from passing for the past two months over those disagreements. 

Progressives argue that the reconciliation bill is more important because it's expected to include much more money on climate issues, in addition to massive spending on social programs. Therefore, they've demanded that a reconciliation bill pass before they will consider the infrastructure bill. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a key holdout vote on President Joe Biden's domestic agenda, makes a statement to reporters about Republicans and Democrats resolving their fight over raising the debt limit, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 6, (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite / AP Newsroom)


But with still no agreement there's no chance a reconciliation bill could pass – or even be written – before Biden departs Thursday. So Khanna appeared to scale back progressives' demands for how nailed down the reconciliation bill needs to be for an infrastructure vote this week. 

"The president needs the reconciliation agreement to go to Glasgow," Khanna said. "That's what is gonna deal with climate change, that's what's gonna hit his goals of 50% reduction by 2030."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., appeared confident Sunday on CNN that a handshake deal will be enough to get progressives to let the infrastructure bill pass, even as Democrats hold only a three-vote margin in the House. 

CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Pelosi if "the framework will be agreed to or there will be a deal on the social safety net bill." Pelosi responded: "Let's call it an agreement."

Addressing this on "Fox News Sunday," Khanna said that "the details matter," but that if Biden gives assurances that a deal is in place, that could work.

"My view is that the president's word saying, ‘I have the commitment of 50 senators and those 50 senators are going to vote for this bill and here are the details,’ that that's good enough," he said.

But, Khanna said, "different members have different views about what is exactly good enough." He added that if there are progressive senators who have an issue with the bill, "then there's a problem."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. accompanied by House Democrats, holds a House continuing resolution to keep funding the government after she signed it on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (AP Newsroom)

After an embarrassing defeat last month when they failed to get the House to vote on the infrastructure bill, moderate House Democrats led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., appear to be ready to go along with the reconciliation-deal-first strategy. 

"We appreciate the commitment that the final reconciliation package brought to the House can pass the Senate," Gottheimer and eight fellow House moderates said in a statement last week. They also insisted that "it is critical that we vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill without delay."


But the statement did not carry the kind of combative tone the group took last month as it battled for the passage of the infrastructure bill without consideration of the reconciliation package. 

Plus, many Democrats believe the fact that the infrastructure bill stalled is hurting Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in his surprisingly close matchup against GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin. 

A fear of losing the governorship in what has been a reliably blue state – and what that could mean for 2022 – could motivate some accelerated deal-making just as much as the upcoming Glasgow summit. 

"Many members understand that we're working very hard to get a deal," Khanna said, "I understand we're close and I'm confident we're going to get there."

FOX Business' Patrick Ward and Kendra Olson contributed to this report.