It's a crucial week for Biden's agenda and Congress

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0304 GMT (1104 HKT) September 28, 2021
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10:34 a.m. ET, September 27, 2021

Biden's schedule is open this week. Here's why that's intentional.

From CNN's Lauren Fox, Phil Mattingly and Kevin Liptak

President Biden's schedule on Monday — and throughout the week — is mostly wide open. That's intentional.

White House meetings with lawmakers are possible. Calls are a certainty. A trip to Capitol Hill may even be in the cards, officials say.

At this point, things are moving hour-to-hour, according to officials. While nothing is locked in or firm, nothing is really off the table, either.

In other words, Biden is basically set to do whatever is needed to move things forward throughout the course of the week.

The White House is circulating a memo today spelling out what they say are the political advantages of passing both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the larger "Build Back Better" social and environmental spending act.

In it, the White House says the "evidence is overwhelming that the wind is at our backs and the public is eager for both of these packages to become law," citing public polling showing the popularity of items contained with the bills, including paid leave, universal pre-K and expanding Medicare.

11:03 a.m. ET, September 27, 2021

Democratic leaders are trying to reach a "framework" deal by Thursday on an economic package

From CNN's Manu Raju

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrive for a press conference on September 23.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrive for a press conference on September 23. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)

House and Senate Democratic leaders are trying to reach a "framework" deal on their party's larger economic package by Thursday — in order to woo progressive Democrats to fall in line behind the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package headed for a final House vote that day, according to a source involved in the talks.

Whether the framework is enough to win over progressives who have demanded passage of the economic package by then remains to be seen. And whether they can win over moderate Democrats — including Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — by Thursday on an outline of a deal is also highly uncertain.

In the meantime, Democrats and the White House plan to toughen their message to on-the-fence members, delivering this message of sorts: "You're either with the President, or you're not," according to the source.

Before the evening caucus meeting tonight, the Congressional Progressive Caucus plans to hold a call at 12:30 p.m. ET to discuss their strategy, the source said.

10:26 a.m. ET, September 27, 2021

Here's a reminder of what is in the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill

From CNN's Katie Lobosco and Tami Luhby

Construction takes place on Interstate 285 in Sandy Springs, Georgia, on July 14.
Construction takes place on Interstate 285 in Sandy Springs, Georgia, on July 14. (Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The Senate passed a massive $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in August and now the House is scheduled to vote on it later this week. If passed, the bill will go to President Biden's desk to be signed into law.

But House progressives don't want to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure legislation before also voting to pass a separate $3.5 trillion spending bill that would remake a lot of the country's social safety net system — and also likely raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

Here's what the infrastructure bill would fund:

  • Funding for roads and bridges: The deal calls for investing $110 billion for roads, bridges and major infrastructure projects, according to the summary. Included is $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement and rehabilitation, according to the bill text. The White House says it would be the single, largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system, which started in the 1950s.The deal also contains $16 billion for major projects that would be too large or complex for traditional funding programs, according to the White House.
  • Money for transit and rail: The package would provide $39 billion to modernize public transit, according to the bill text.The funds would repair and upgrade existing infrastructure, make stations accessible to all users, bring transit service to new communities and modernize rail and bus fleets, including replacing thousands of vehicles with zero-emission models, according to the White House.
  • Broadband upgrade: The bill would provide a $65 billion investment in improving the nation's broadband infrastructure, according to the bill text. t also aims to help lower the price households pay for internet service by requiring federal funding recipients to offer a low-cost affordable plan, by creating price transparency and by boosting competition in areas where existing providers aren't providing adequate service. It would also create a permanent federal program to help more low-income households access the internet, according to the White House fact sheet.
  • Upgrading airports, ports and waterways: The deal would invest $17 billion in port infrastructure and $25 billion in airports to address repair and maintenance backlogs, reduce congestion and emissions near ports and airports and promote electrification and other low-carbon technologies, according to the White House.
  • Electric vehicles:The bill would provide $7.5 billion for zero- and low-emission buses and ferries, aiming to deliver thousands of electric school buses to districts across the country, according to the White House. Another $7.5 billion would go to building a nationwide network of plug-in electric vehicle chargers, according to the bill text.
  • Improving power and waterways: The bill would invest $65 billion to rebuild the electric grid, according to the White House. It calls for building thousands of miles of new power lines and expanding renewable energy, the White House said. It would provide $55 billion to upgrade water infrastructure, according to the bill text and another $50 billion would go toward making the system more resilient — protecting it from drought, floods and cyber attacks.
  • Environmental remediation: The bill would provide $21 billion to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned gas wells, according to the White House.

Read more about what's in the bill here.

9:52 a.m. ET, September 27, 2021

Biden administration official on weekend progress of talks: "The dam is breaking"

From CNN's John Harwood, Kevin Liptak and Devan Cole

A senior Biden administration official is expressing cautious optimism on prospects for advancing the reconciliation bill as well as an infrastructure bill this week: "we will have to cut a lot and drop some things, but I think we can get the big pieces."

A second senior official says, "the dam is breaking."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday night that the House will vote Thursday on the $1 trillion infrastructure plan, as the future of President Biden's sweeping economic agenda remains uncertain.

The vote is set to come as Pelosi works to unite disparate wings of the Democratic Party on both the infrastructure bill and broader $3.5 trillion social and environmental package, all as Congress works to stave off a lapse in government funding by Thursday and hitting the debt limit in October.

Pelosi, along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and senior White House officials, spent the weekend working to broker an agreement on the social and environmental package.

Where things stand now: So far they have been unable to strike a deal between progressive and moderate Democrats on a topline figure for the social and environmental bill or a framework of programs contained in the plan. Pelosi had committed last month to the original Monday deadline for the infrastructure bill, hoping to placate moderates who were wavering in support for the larger budget blueprint.

10:30 a.m. ET, September 27, 2021

What's at stake this week for Biden's domestic agenda

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Phil Mattingly

(Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
(Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

President Biden enters the most seismic week of his legislative agenda explicitly set to miss one deadline and implicitly knowing he'll soon have to bow to a Republican blockade on another.

Feverish talks over the course of the weekend led to a rhetorical intraparty pressure release, but still left Democrats miles away from a clear pathway forward on their sweeping $4 trillion dual-pronged agenda, according to multiple people directly involved.

Every piece of Biden's agenda is on the line this week.

The vote on his $1.2 trillion Senate-passed infrastructure bill is now expected to happen on Thursday. The policy gaps in Democrats' multi-trillion dollar social safety net are significant, even as Democratic leaders say they plan to bring it to the floor this week for consideration.

And Republicans are determined to block Democrats' efforts to have them help raise the debt ceiling Monday night.

It's a mess, but those three items — despite self-imposed deadlines, promises from leaders and the wishes of various wings of the Democratic party — don't have to be dealt with this week.

The government funding bill does. And, if we get to the end of the week without a resolution on that one issue, the federal government shuts down.

Biden, upon returning from Camp David, hit at the same point as House Democrats — this is going to take some time.

"I'm optimistic about this week," Biden told reporters, adding, "it's going to take the better part of the week, I think."

Biden was on the phone with lawmakers throughout the weekend and his lead legislative negotiators Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese have been more or less working straight through the last several days and nights, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Overall, White House officials have been anxious about the path forward even though there remains, in the words of one official, "pretty explicit trust that history shows if the speaker is involved, it's going to go our way."

Yet nobody has a clear sense of the exact path forward on the pair of bills that make up not just Biden's domestic agenda but also the central tenet of his presidency: that showing government can work will serve as the key to calming the rancorous anti-Washington fervor sweeping the country.

Those are the real stakes here for Biden. It's not a whip count, or a specific policy dispute. He's made clear, repeatedly, it's so much bigger than that in his view. In playing the expectations game for these bills, Biden hasn't hedged. And now it's all on the line.

Read more about where things stand here.

10:31 a.m. ET, September 27, 2021

The key moments to watch this week in Congress

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Phil Mattingly

Sun illuminates the US Capitol on September 25.
Sun illuminates the US Capitol on September 25. (Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

The Senate votes today at 5:30 p.m. ET on legislation to fund the government through December 3. The same bill raises the debt ceiling, something Republicans have said en masse they won't support.

The bill is going down (with just a handful of Republican senators who may cross the aisle). But, it's what happens in the hours and days after that will matter.

Democrats will have three days to fund the government. There is no public Plan B at the moment, but multiple people with direct knowledge say the expectation is the debt ceiling suspension will be ditched and a shorter funding bill will likely move.

That shorter-term option could run through early December or be a matter of weeks. Aides have said those considerations are all on the table.

House Democrats will have a caucus-wide meeting today at 5:30 p.m. ET. Think of it as a family reunion, an airing of grievances, an opportunity to get every single member on the same page at the same time in the same room.

For weeks, moderates and progressives have been lobbing arrows at one another, dancing around each other and this is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's attempt to get everyone in the room to talk it out, to remind them what is at stake before either side draws any more red lines.

Later this week: At this point, the earliest we will see a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill is Thursday. The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill will head to the floor Monday, but there is a long way to go to convince progressives to vote "yes."

Pelosi was strategic about moving this vote until Thursday, however. That is the date that the country's Surface Transportation bill expires. The infrastructure bill is the road to highway funding, and for a lot of members on the fence, Pelosi is hoping that might move the needle here.

Read more about this week's events here.