Biden delays meeting with Pope Francis over spending bill crisis

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President Biden has arrived on Capitol Hill to try to swing a last minute deal on his Build Back Better plan between warring factions in his party — after reportedly having to delay his flight to visit Pope Francis in order to try to secure a much needed legislative win.

Biden, who keeps a picture of the pope behind his desk in the Oval Office, was due to fly to Rome early on Thursday, ready for his first meeting with the pontiff since taking office in January.

But he was forced to push back his flight by several hours to continue his crunch talks on the Capitol.

As The Post previously reported, Biden will meet with House Democrats Thursday morning around 9:00 a.m. in an effort to break a conference deadlock and secure a vote on a Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill.

He is then scheduled to give remarks from the White House East Room at 11:30 a.m.

Sen. Joe Manchin has been one of several holdout votes on Biden's reconciliation bill saying that the price is too high for Americans to pay.
Sen. Joe Manchin has been one of several holdout votes on Biden’s reconciliation bill saying that the price is too high for Americans to pay.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan talks to reporters about U.S. President Joe Biden's upcoming trip to Europe to attend the G-20 summit.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan talks to reporters about U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming trip to Europe to attend the G-20 summit.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

He is then scheduled to give remarks from the White House East Room at 11:30 a.m., “about the path forward for his economic agenda and the next steps to getting it done,” according to the White House. 

Only after 12:30 p.m. — hours after initially scheduled — will he depart for his flight to the Vatican, where he is set to meet the pope on Friday.

The last time Biden met with House Democrats on Capitol Hill on Oct. 1, he made clear that there would be no movement on the infrastructure deal until agreement was reached on the final form of the social spending measure.

“I’m tellin’ ya, we’re gonna get this done,” Biden said at the time. “Doesn’t matter if it’s in six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We’re gonna get it done.”

Thursday’s visit comes as Democrats battle within their party to reach agreement on the massive social spending bill, which they are attempting to ram through Congress without Republican support, through the parliamentary maneuver of reconciliation — which requires total Democratic unity. 

Progressive Democrats have vowed they will vote to kill the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan unless the social spending bill passes both chambers of Congress first, while moderates have promised not to vote for the progressive top line.

Several policies have been put on the chopping block as Congress awaits the final framework, including paid family leave — which Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) objected to Wednesday. Other Democrats have urged the moderate senator to change his mind.  

Free community college is also expected to be absent from the final bill, while some possible tax increases are expected to be included. 

Amid growing anger over Biden’s handling of the economy, the president had made no secret of wanting to reach an agreement on his massive social spending bill before he left for Europe.

“It’d be very, very positive to get it done before the trip,” Biden said Monday.

Biden, the US's second catholic President, is expected to meet with the Pope on October 29, 2021
Joe Biden, the US’s second catholic president, is expected to meet with Pope Francis on October 29, 2021
MAURIZIO BRAMBATTI/EPA-EFE/Shutt

But as talks slogged on, administration officials began to play down the significance of Biden’s spending plan still hovering in limbo rather than being locked down.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki stressed that the president can still work the phones from Rome, suggesting Wednesday that foreign leaders can see beyond ongoing back-room talks with lawmakers back home.

Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, is still expected to meet Friday with Francis at the Vatican.

U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema has also expressed a similar hesitation on Biden's spending bill.
U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema has also expressed a similar hesitation on Biden’s spending bill.
REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

“They will have a chance just to reflect, each of them, on their view of what’s happening in the world, policy issues,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday.

Biden will also pay a visit to the Italian hosts of the G-20 summit before he sits down with French President Emmanuel Macron, in a bid to close a rift created when the US and UK agreed to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, supplanting a French contract in the process.

Biden is also expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, where he is is expected to address the Iranian nuclear threat, and Iran’s announcement that it could return to talks next month in Vienna.

With Post wires



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