President Joe Biden delivers remarks to members of the news media before departing the South Lawn of the White House by Marine One in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 2 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and divided congressional Democrats will have more time to work out disagreements over a large social spending package after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi extended a deadline for a related bill.
Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats on Saturday that the chamber now has until the end of October to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that cleared the Senate in August.
The letter is the latest in congressional maneuvering that will determine the fate of Biden's agenda, which includes the transportation package and a broader "Build Back Better" $3.5 trillion social spending bill.
"Negotiations will continue now, with more time for decisions, legislative language, Senate parliamentarian review and public awareness," Pelosi said in the letter.
House progressives have insisted on linking passage of the transportation bill to the social spending bill. But key Democrats in the Senate have balked at the price tag of the social spending bill.
The Senate backed a House vote to approve an extension of transportation funding Saturday amid negotiations on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
The move, which extends the funding for a month, provides relief for 3,700 Department of Transportation employees who were furloughed after the money expired Thursday night, The Washington Post reported.
It comes amid two Democratic lawmakers clashing with the majority of lawmakers in the party over advancing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Still, Biden said Saturday he's confident Congress will pass it and separate social spending legislation.
The House had approved the extension by a 365-51 vote Friday.
"Today's extension protects thousands of Department of Transportation employees and will keep important projects on schedule," Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the Transportation Committee said Friday.
"Now we will continue our work to pass the Build Back Better agenda into law, including a historic investment in America's infrastructure."
Biden visited to Capitol Hill on Friday to meet with members of the Democratic Caucus to push his agenda and encourage the bills' passage.
"There is no reason why both bills can't pass," he told reporters as he left the White House on Saturday morning en route to Delaware.
"There's nothing in these pieces of legislation that is radical. I believe I can get this done."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden plans to "continue close engagement" with members of both the House and Senate over the weekend.
"And he looks forward to not only welcoming members to the White House next week, but also traveling the country to make the case for his bold and ambitious agenda."
Pelosi said she was certain the infrastructure bill would pass Thursday, and then again Friday, but disagreements between moderate and progressive Democrats have prevented her from bringing the legislation up for a vote.
She said Friday night that "more time is needed" to gather the support needed to pass the bill.
Progressives sought to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill alongside a larger reconciliation bill for $3.5 trillion in social benefits, but the two were separated out.
Moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., refused to agree to a public framework for the reconciliation bill, saying the $3.5 trillion price tag was too high. Manchin said he'd only go as high as $1.5 trillion.