President Biden said Saturday he needs to do a better job selling the public on his two big-spending bills that are stalled in Congress, saying his attention had been diverted by “hurricanes and floods.”
Departing the White House for a weekend at his home in Delaware after Democrats failed for a third time to pass his agenda, Mr. Biden addressed criticism that he hasn’t done enough to sell the infrastructure and social welfare proposals around the country.
“Well, folks, two little things like — we had hurricanes and floods, and we had little things like we … anyway, a lot was going on. A lot was going on,” Mr. Biden said.
The president didn’t mention that his attentions were also devoted to his administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan this summer.
Mr. Biden said he plans to make a trip next week as part of his legislative sales job, and vowed to “work like hell.”
“I’m going to try to sell what I think the people — American people would buy,” he said. “I believe that when the American people are aware of what’s in it we’ll get it done.”
It’s a pivotal time for Mr. Biden and the party. His approval ratings have dropped and Democrats are restless, eager to deliver on his signature campaign promise of rebuilding the country.
His ideas go beyond roads-and-bridges infrastructure to delivering dental, vision and hearing care for seniors, free prekindergarten, major efforts to tackle climate change and other investments that would touch countless American lives.
Mr. Biden met with House Democrats late Friday in an effort to salvage his two legislative packages but came away empty-handed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday she hopes to hold a vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill by the end of October.
The president has been unable to negotiate an agreement between progressives who have demanded the $3.5 trillion social welfare plan and moderate Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who want a less costly package.
Asked if he was surprised how difficult it has been to bring both factions of his party together, Mr. Biden replied, “We can bring the moderates and progressives together very easy if we had two more votes [in the Senate]. Two. Two people.”
The president acknowledged that Democrats are frustrated.
“Everybody’s frustrated, it’s part of being in government, being frustrated,” he told reporters.
Among those expressing frustration was Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia Republican, who said transportation projects need permanent funding instead of the 30-day extension that Congress approved this week.
“This week shows the fallacy of House Democrats holding a bipartisan infrastructure package hostage to try to force passage of the $3.5 trillion reckless tax and spending spree,” she said.
— This article is based in part on wire-service reports.