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Biden to meet with centrist Sens. Manchin and Sinema with Democrats’ sprawling economic agenda at stake

U.S. President Joe Biden meets virtually with governors, mayors, and other state and local elected officials to discuss the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, August 11, 2021.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

President Joe Biden will meet with key Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on Tuesday as he tries to patch up flagging support for his economic plans.

The president will hold separate talks with the centrists Manchin and Sinema, who represent West Virginia and Arizona, respectively, CNBC and NBC News confirmed.

The huddles come as Democrats in the White House, Senate and House scramble to craft a plan to invest in the social safety net and climate policy that can get through both chambers of Congress. The party’s ability to pass a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill appears to hinge on leaders making progress toward an agreement on a budget reconciliation plan Democrats would pass on their own.

The coming days in Congress will shape the success of Biden’s policy goals as Democrats look to keep control of the legislature in next year’s midterm elections. An array of changes — from tax increases on corporations and the wealthy to expanded child care, paid leave, education and health care — will be on the line as Democrats negotiate in the coming days.

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Both Manchin and Sinema have said they would oppose the $3.5 trillion in social safety net spending first proposed by their party. If either of the senators voted against the Democratic bill in the evenly split Senate, it would fail.

They have yet to strike a deal with the White House on an overall price tag they would support. Agreement on a topline figure would allow lawmakers to write specific pieces of the bill.

The talks with Manchin and Sinema will in part determine whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can thread a needle to keep her full caucus on board with both planks of Biden’s agenda. The California Democrat told her party she would hold a Thursday vote on the infrastructure bill despite threats from progressives to vote against it if the Senate has not moved to pass the reconciliation plan, NBC News reported.

If Biden can secure commitments that the two senators will vote for a social safety net and climate spending plan, it could increase the chances the infrastructure plan passes this week. Pelosi has repeatedly said she would only pass a budget bill that can also get through the Senate.

The Senate has approved the infrastructure bill, so House passage would send it to Biden’s desk.

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