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Biden cancels Chicago trip amid tensions over legislative agenda

A White House official said the progress being made on the president's legislative priorities prompted the decision.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Sept. 27, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks Monday at the White House.Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

President Joe Biden canceled his trip to Chicago this week to stay in Washington to haggle with lawmakers over the administration's two large legislative priorities, a White House official said Tuesday.

"In meetings and calls over the weekend and through today, President Biden has been engaging with members of Congress on the path forward for the Build Back Better Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal," the official said. "He will now remain at the White House tomorrow to continue working on advancing these two pieces of legislation to create jobs, grow the economy and make investments in families, rather than failed giveaways to the rich and big corporations."

The White House official said it was important for Biden to stay behind because of the progress the administration believes is being made on the two packages. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., signaled this week that she was confident that the infrastructure bill would be passed this week, but progressive Democrats have threatened to block the legislation to maximize their leverage over a separate multitrillion-dollar budget package.

Biden spoke Monday with Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The White House said the three leaders "agreed on the need to continue work on advancing the two pieces of legislation that represent the President's vision."

The House is expected to vote Thursday on an infrastructure bill, which had originally been scheduled for a vote on Monday.

Pelosi told Democrats on Monday that passage of the $550 billion infrastructure bill must not wait for Biden's $3.5 trillion safety net bill, saying the larger package is not yet ready for a vote, particularly because it has not passed the Senate.

In a private caucus meeting, Pelosi said the party must "make difficult choices," because the dynamics have changed and Democrats have not yet agreed to a spending level, NBC News reported.

The battle over the $3.5 trillion price tag centers on Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, centrist Democrats who have insisted that it be reduced. But they have not named their price, which has led to protracted negotiations.

The White House official said Biden will reschedule his trip to Chicago, where he had planned to discuss the "ongoing importance of getting people vaccinated."