President Biden, facing an intraparty battle over his domestic agenda, put his own $1 trillion infrastructure bill on hold on Friday, telling Democrats that a vote on the popular measure must wait until Democrats pass his far more ambitious social policy and climate change package.
It was largely a bid to mediate the impasse that has stalled a planned vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which progressives refuse to support until they see action on the remainder of Mr. Biden’s agenda in a major budget bill to expand health care, education, climate change initiatives and paid leave.
“I’m telling you, we’re going to get this done,” Mr. Biden said at the Capitol after huddling with Democrats who have been feuding over the two bills. He added: “It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in six minutes, six days or six weeks. We’re going to get it done.”
In private remarks, he counseled Democrats that while he wanted both pieces of legislation to become law, final passage of the Senate-passed infrastructure bill needed to wait until the party agreed to the details of the broader reconciliation package. But he also warned liberal Democrats that a proposed $3.5 trillion price tag would probably need to drop in order to accommodate centrist holdouts, and he tossed out a range of figures around $2 trillion as a possible alternative.
“He is the president of the United States, and he says that he wants to get this done, and he basically linked them together,” said Representative Henry Cuellar, Democrat of Texas. “I think if we get it done, there’ll be a victory. The question is when do we get that victory?”
Mr. Cuellar noted that moderates had an agreement with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California to vote on the bill this week, and said it was up to her how to handle that promise.
On Friday evening, Ms. Pelosi indefinitely postponed a vote on the infrastructure bill that she had promised to moderates who had publicly pushed for a stand-alone vote. She wrote in a letter to colleagues, “Clearly, the bipartisan infrastructure bill will pass once we have agreement on the reconciliation bill.”
“Our priority to create jobs in the health care, family and climate agendas is a shared value,” she wrote, adding that leading lawmakers were “still working for clarity and consensus.”
Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Mr. Biden “was very clear” that the two bills were tied together.
He emphasized that he supported the bipartisan infrastructure bill, according to Ms. Jayapal, and said, “If I thought I could do it right now, I would, but we need to get this reconciliation bill.”
“It’s going to be tough,” Ms. Jayapal added. “Like we’re going to have to come down in our number, and we’re going to have to do that work and see what we can get to.”
The House will now leave Washington for two weeks of remote committee work, with the promise of 72 hours’ notice before being called back.
Mr. Biden’s visit to Capitol Hill came after a closed-door meeting Ms. Pelosi had called on Friday morning did little to resolve the disputes. In it, lawmakers from swing districts pleaded for passage of the infrastructure bill and liberals in safe Democratic seats said they would not vote yes until the Senate agreed on the larger measure.
Many Democrats had issued public pleas for Mr. Biden to become more personally involved in the negotiations, saying he needed to allay the escalating mistrust and frustration among Democrats.
“I think the president might be the only person that can bridge both the trust gap and the timing gap,” said Representative Dean Phillips, Democrat of Minnesota.
Ms. Pelosi opened the morning meeting with an appeal for unity, telling her troops they could stay strong if they united, according to multiple people familiar with the session who described it on the condition of anonymity.
The infrastructure bill, which would provide $550 billion in new funding, was supposed to burnish Mr. Biden’s bipartisan bona fides. It includes $65 billion to expand high-speed internet access; $110 billion for roads, bridges and other projects; $25 billion for airports; and the most funding for Amtrak since the passenger rail service was founded in 1971. It would also accelerate a national shift toward electric vehicles, with new charging stations and fortifications of the electricity grid that will be necessary to power those cars.