By Nandita Bose and Jeff Mason
U.S. President Joe Biden headed to his birthplace of Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday to promote bills on infrastructure and social spending, while measures to combat climate change remained a stumbling block among his fellow Democrats.
Biden delivered remarks at the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, an election swing state, and talked about how his infrastructure plan will benefit the working class in cities like Scranton. His fellow Democrats in Washington are closing in on a deal to pass infrastructure and social spending measures after weeks of bickering.
But hurdles remain and talks were ongoing.
Biden told lawmakers on Tuesday he thought he could get Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to agree to a cost in the range of $1.75 trillion to $1.9 trillion for the spending bill, according to a source familiar with the talks.
“I’m just working with everybody I can, talking to everybody,” Manchin told reporters on Wednesday. “There’s just too much going on. Let’s see if there’s a pathway forward, that’s all.”
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set Oct. 31 as the deadline for the House to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal that the Senate has already approved and has broad bipartisan support. On Wednesday, she told reporters that it is “very possible” for Democrats to agree on a framework for Biden’s spending bill at the end of the week.
Democrats missed a prior deadline to pass the infrastructure bill, after House progressive lawmakers refused to approve it unless it was coupled with the spending bill that would fund Biden’s campaign pledges on climate, inequality and social programs.
Climate change initiatives remain one of the final sticking points in the spending bill.
Biden was clear he wants an agreement before going to a climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland that starts Oct. 31, the source said. The United States has pledged to lower greenhouse gas emissions 50%-52% by 2030 from 2005 levels.
The president floated alternatives to a clean energy program that Manchin opposes, the source said. These include $300 billion to support solar and wind energy as well as electric vehicles. An additional $150 billion would go to carbon capture and nuclear power, which may disappoint progressives who prefer other measures.
While the components of the two bills are popular with voters from both parties, the protracted negotiations have created confusion. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who complained earlier that unfavorable media coverage was hurting public support, plans to host a livestream on Wednesday titled “What’s in the Damn Bill.”