Pelosi and Jayapal to meet as talks over Biden agenda hit critical moment


As party leaders work to reach an agreement, moderate Democrats, such as Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have been influential in scaling back the overall size and ambition of what will be included in the package, much to the dismay of progressives. But if progressives withhold their votes for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the House will not be able to pass it, a scenario that played out once before at the end of September.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is meeting Tuesday afternoon with Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington as negotiations on the larger package continue, a Democratic aide told CNN.

    The meeting comes as top congressional Democrats are hoping to secure a deal on the social safety net package and hold a House vote on the infrastructure bill this week. Senate Democratic leaders hope to get a deal on a framework by the end of the day Wednesday, senators told CNN Tuesday afternoon.

      The meeting between Jayapal and Pelosi is one of several high profile Democratic meetings happening Tuesday, a sign that negotiators are quickly searching for an agreement with time running out. Leaders from five critical House Democratic caucuses will travel to the White House to meet with senior staff on Biden’s climate and economic package, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

        Jayapal told CNN on Monday that she wants the votes of the infrastructure bill and the social safety net package to be “back-to-back,” effectively setting a very high bar to get the public works bill out of the House this week unless she changes her position.

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        The social safety net package aims to address key Democratic agenda items from health care to climate change to aid for families, but major sticking points remain unresolved including how much it will cost and how to pay for it. Policy issues ranging from paid family leave provisions to an expansion of Medicare and prescription drug price negotiation have also become flashpoint issues that have divided progressives and moderates with no clear resolution.

          Pelosi told reporters after a closed door meeting Tuesday morning with Democrats that the social safety net bill is 90% written and that all outstanding decisions have to largely be made by the end of the day.

          “There’s not much more time,” Pelosi said. “We have to have decisions largely today. A little bit into tomorrow. So we can proceed.”

          Details on billionaire’s tax expected Tuesday night

          On top of there being uncertainty about whether certain programs are going to make it into the final package, there are still questions over how Democrats solidify how they pay for it.

          Sinema opposed increasing the corporate tax rate and the top marginal rate on individuals, which sent Democrats back to the drawing board. In the race to find alternative ways to pay for their massive social spending and climate change package, Democrats are now targeting the wealth of the richest Americans. The problem is most still have not seen the details of the billionaire tax that is being floated.

          Pelosi told members in the closed door meeting Tuesday morning that Democrats are still waiting for the language around the proposed billionaire tax from the Senate, according to a source in the room.

          House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that he still had not seen the language of the billionaire tax.

          “I haven’t seen it on paper. As a matter of fact, it’s not on paper yet,” Hoyer said.

          Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden told reporters later in the afternoon that there will be details and paper released Tuesday night on the billionaire’s tax proposal.

          White House senior officials Steve Ricchetti and Brian Deese met with Sinema on Capitol Hill earlier Tuesday, according to a source familiar.

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          Separately, Sinema is in talks with Senate Democrats, including Wyden, on both the billionaires’ tax and a corporate minimum tax, respectively, and is close to agreement on both issues

          Even though the ways to pay for the bill are still being negotiated, Hoyer said he is hopeful that the framework of the social spending bill can be completed “in the next few hours frankly.”

          Pelosi also said to reporters Tuesday that she told her members that in order to move forward on the infrastructure bill, there needs to be an agreement that the same bill to pass the House will also pass the Senate without any amendments.

          “Without an agreement we don’t even have a discussion,” Pelosi said, confirming that solidifying a framework on the social spending package is the catalyst for being able to bring the infrastructure bill to the floor for a vote.

          As Democrats enter crunch time for negotiations, progressives are warning that they don’t want to see their priorities left on the cutting room floor.

          Progressives push for Medicare expansion, drug price negotiation and paid leave

          Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Tuesday that the bill must include “real” authority for Medicare to negotiate drug prices — something that has caused major issues with moderates, and that the bill must expand Medicare to include dental, hearing, vision coverage, another sticking point with moderates.

          “Any serious reconciliation bill must include real Medicare negotiation to the pharmaceutical industry to lower the cost of prescription drugs. … Any serious reconciliation bill must include expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids and eyeglasses,” Sanders said.

          He would not respond when asked by CNN if it was a red line.

          Democrats are aiming to pass the social safety net package through a process known as budget reconciliation, which would allow them to pass it in the Senate without any GOP votes. That maneuver, however, means that Democrats cannot afford to lose any Democratic votes at all in the Senate.

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          Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said on Tuesday that she’s not giving up on trying to get paid family leave into the bill, another thorny issue that has caused conflict within the party.

          “I’m going to continue to push,” DeLauro, a close ally of Pelosi, told reporters on Tuesday. “I take it a day at a time my friends. It’s not over until it’s over.”

          DeLauro said she hadn’t heard much discussion about work requirements or means testing for the child tax credit. DeLauro has been a longtime advocate for both the child tax credit and paid family leave.

          Prominent moderate says ‘we still have work to do’

          At the same time, moderate Democrats are also working to assert leverage over the process.

          Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, who has been part of the moderate group of members pushing for the bipartisan infrastructure bill to get a standalone vote, told reporters after the Democratic caucus meeting that it’s time for members to start selling what’s in the social safety net bill, and not focus on what might not make it into the final version.

          “There’s a lot of good things. Don’t look at things that were not included” Cuellar said. “We’ve got to start selling and there’s so much to sell.”

          Cuellar said Pelosi made her pitch to members in the room, including progressives, that the goal is to focus on the end result of the process.

          “I think she was teaching Government 101. Just telling the members ‘Hey, this is the way the process works. It’s not what you want. It’s what you can get out of the process.’ She did an excellent job,” Cuellar said.

          Cuellar said he was sitting next to a progressive in the meeting who was unsure about voting for the infrastructure bill because of where things stood with the social safety net package and Cuellar relayed to reporters that he told that member, “‘Hey, listen, we all went through that. We all go through that, but that’s legislation. I mean, that’s what you do when you legislate. You look at things and you compromise, not only among ourselves, but with the Senate also.”

          Leaving a meeting in Pelosi’s office on Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said “we still have work to do” on the social safety net proposal. The meeting was held with members from New Jersey and Virginia to stress the importance of passing the infrastructure bill as well as the larger social safety net package.

          “We were talking about the areas where we need to keep moving the ball,” Gottheimer said, though he declined to name them. “We’re slowly getting there.”

            “We were all talking about the importance of getting this done now, and that we can’t wait any longer,” he said.

            This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

            CNN’s Manu Raju, Melanie Zanona, Lauren Fox, Ted Barrett, Kristin Wilson and Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.