Biden to meet with Democrats on Wednesday over tensions on spending, infrastructure bills

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is expected to host multiple in-person meetings with groups of House and Senate Democrats on Wednesday to build consensus around his infrastructure and social spending packages, two sources familiar confirmed to NBC News.

As of Tuesday evening, the White House had not settled on the final timing and invite list for the gatherings but a source familiar with the planning told NBC News that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are expected to attend a 2 p.m. ET meeting at the White House.

The meetings are an effort to break the current stalemate among House Democrats, which threatens to derail Biden’s domestic agenda. Progressive lawmakers have said they won’t back the Senate-passed infrastructure bill, a top priority for the Democratic leadership, unless the larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation package passes first. Moderates, meanwhile, said they won’t support the reconciliation measure unless the bipartisan infrastructure bill passes on Monday as scheduled.

The leader of the progressive caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., met with Pelosi earlier on Tuesday, after threatening to sink the infrastructure bill.

On Tuesday, Jayapal said her group was willing to vote down the Senate-passed infrastructure bill unless a larger $3.5 trillion spending and tax measure is ready by House Democrats' self-imposed deadline of Sept. 27. Each day it becomes increasingly less likely that the House will meet Jayapal's group's demand and finish the massive spending bill by the 27th.

Jayapal told reporters following the meeting that “half” the 95-member progressive caucus is prepared to vote down the infrastructure bill, unless the larger spending bill passes the Senate.

“We can’t move the other bill forward until we pass reconciliation,” said Jayapal. The meeting lasted roughly 90 minutes.

Separately, Pelosi said following the meeting, the reconciliation bill is making progress "and I'm very pleased that it is very much on schedule so far."

Asked whether the bill would get a vote on Monday, Pelosi told reporters, "That would be the hope."

The two bills are part of a long list of items Congress is trying to juggle this week. Schumer said that Sept. 27 was unrealistic for the reconciliation bill to get a Senate vote.

“No, I don't think we could even procedurally get that done,” he said.

House Democrats passed a stopgap spending bill Tuesday evening that needed to be approved to avoid a government shutdown. The vote was 220-211, with no Republicans joining Democrats. Democratic leaders attached a debt limit extension to the stopgap funding bill, setting up a showdown with Republican senators.

Congress has until Sept. 30 to fund the government or risk a shutdown. The Treasury Department has said the debt limit will be breached sometime in October if it's not lifted, which could disrupt the U.S. economy.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., released the legislation, known as a continuing resolution, on Tuesday to extend funding for federal agencies, including education, health, housing and public safety programs, through Dec. 3.

The House measure includes $28.6 billion to address recent disasters, including Hurricane Ida late last month and from last year's hurricanes Delta, Zeta and Laura, wildfires, severe droughts and winter storms, according to a release.

Separately, $6.8 billion will be provided to support Afghan evacuees, including funds for temporary housing at American facilities and in foreign countries, necessary security screenings, and resettling costs for Afghans settling in the U.S.

"As we take that step today, providing help for people in desperate need is a moral imperative, DeLauro said in a statement.

The continuing resolution would also suspend the debt limit into December 2022, which Senate Republicans are expected to balk over.

"We're left to the CR until December, we're attaching the debt limit piece to keep sanity within the markets," House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said during a press conference Tuesday.

"And if those folks [Republicans] you known have concerns, they should reach out to Senator McConnell and ask what full faith and credit of the United States government means, it seems like Senate Republicans need to answer that."

CORRECTION (Sept. 21, 2021, 12:40 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the year until which the debt limit will be suspended. It is 2022, not 2020.

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