Biden eager to get out of DC, push benefits of spending plan

Tuesday, October 5, 2021
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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, Mich. AP PHOTO

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) — President Joe Biden is shifting strategy to sell his ambitious social spending plans by traveling outside Washington and courting moderate Democrats who are key to hopes for any deal.

With his agenda in jeopardy on Capitol Hill, Biden on Tuesday is visiting the Michigan district of a moderate Democratic lawmaker who has urged him to promote his proposals more aggressively to the public. Back in Washington, negotiations continue on a pair of bills to boost spending on safety net, health and environmental programs and infrastructure projects.

While there is cautious optimism about recent progress, no deal had been struck to bridge stark divides between moderates and progressives in the Democratic Party on the size and scope of the package. In recent weeks, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi worked unsuccessfully to secure passage of the bills, Biden stayed in Washington to cajole lawmakers and work phones.

Now, he’s trying to put the public focus on popular components of the bills rather than the inside-the-Beltway debate over their price tag.

The president was joined by Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin during a visit to a union training center in How ell, Michigan, a reflection of the importance of securing moderates’ votes. Next to Biden, the Democrats with the most on the line over the shape and success of his spending plans are House members from swing districts whose reelections are essential if his party is to retain control of Congress.

Indeed, many of those targeted moderates — like Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran and Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger, along with nine other vulnerable moderate House Democrats — joined Biden for a virtual meeting on Tuesday. He held a similar session the previous day with a dozen progressives.

Democratic legislators have warned that Biden’s bold ideas are getting lost in the party’s infighting and procedural skirmishes over the legislation.

“We must communicate to the country the transforma tive nature of the initiatives in the legislation,” Pelosi said in a letter to lawmakers ahead of Biden’s trip.

During remarks on the floor of the Senate Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats made progress in their late night talks Monday with White House officials, and he vowed to press ahead as they rush toward their endof-week goal for drafting a final package.

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