Biden and House Democrats united on agenda, even if it takes more time House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to colleagues that "more time is needed to complete the task" of forging an agreement among Democrats on their larger spending measure.

Biden and House Democrats unite behind his agenda, but they say more time is needed

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Lawmakers in the House will try again today to pass an infrastructure bill. Democratic leadership delayed a vote on infrastructure last night. Progressive Democrats say they won't back it without a deal on a bigger spending bill that includes programs to expand the social safety net.

NPR's Deirdre Walsh, who covers Congress, has been following this one. Good morning, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: All right. So what happened last night, and how does that lead into what will happen today?

WALSH: Well, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just ran out of time. She didn't have the votes to pass that infrastructure bill last night. She says there's going to be a vote today. But we'll see. I mean, the vote this week was really a self-imposed deadline. Democratic leaders can still bring the vote back to the floor. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she won't bring something unless she has the votes to pass it. And she still seems really far from that.

As you've been discussing on this show all week, there is this large group of House progressives who say they will defeat this infrastructure bill unless there is a deal with Senate moderates and the White House on this broader spending package that includes health care, child care, climate programs. So the talks will continue today.

KING: And where do those talks stand? Between the centrist Democrats and the progressive Democrats, how much of an impasse are they at?

WALSH: They are still really intense. This is a messy fight that's jeopardizing President Biden's entire domestic agenda. House and Democratic leaders, the president and White House officials were working the phones late into the night. They're trying to get this framework together on that broader bill. But it's going to have to be a scaled-back version of the $3.5 trillion bill they've been proposing.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin says he's looking at something that's half that amount. Here's what he said yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE MANCHIN: I'm willing to sit down and work through that 1.5 to get our - by priorities. And they can come back and do later, and they can run on the rest of it later. I think there's many ways to get to where they want to, just not in - everything at one time.

WALSH: Progressives are not happy about that number or the suggestion that they're going to have to put off large parts of this. Other Democrats do say that now that talks are really happening, they could reach towards a compromise. But Democrats are using a process to get around a Republican filibuster. And they're going to need all 50 Senate Democrats to stay united.

KING: The vote on infrastructure didn't happen last night. But we should point out that Congress managed to avoid a government shutdown, at the very least.

WALSH: (Laughter) They did - and just hours before the midnight deadline. President Biden signed a bill to keep federal agencies running until December 3. That bill also has emergency money for natural disasters and money for Afghan resettlement programs. But we'll be right back where we are in a couple months, negotiating another spending bill.

KING: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thanks for that.

WALSH: Thank you, Noel.

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