President Biden desperately needs a political win — and soon — as his poll numbers crater, but top liberals in Congress indicated Sunday that they see his $1.75 trillion framework bill as more of a good start than an endgame.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, said he worked the phones over the weekend trying to reinsert items dropped from the slimmed-down White House package, including paid family and medical leave, Medicare dental and vision coverage, and Medicare drug price negotiations.
“That bill is still being worked on literally today. It will be worked on tomorrow,” Mr. Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I believe we’re making some progress in making it even stronger than it is.”
In addition to the paid leave and Medicare provisions, Rep. Ro Khanna, California Democrat, said “the climate parts are still being negotiated,” including the addition of a fee on methane leaks.
The House could vote as early as Tuesday.
Asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” whether he would support the framework bill without social and climate additions from the far left, Mr. Khanna was noncommittal.
None of that was particularly encouraging for Mr. Biden, who flew to Europe on Thursday for the Group of 20 and U.N. COP26 summits without a green energy package in hand. It hurt U.S. credibility on greenhouse gas emissions reductions and fueled concerns about his leadership.
An NBC News poll released Sunday found Mr. Biden’s approval ratings trending in the wrong direction as he struggles with soaring fuel prices, rising inflation, labor and goods shortages, a summer surge in COVID-19 cases and fallout from the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The survey, conducted Oct. 23-26, showed 42% of U.S. adults approved of Mr. Biden’s job performance and 54% disapproved.
Those numbers represented a significant drop from August, when the public was split 49% to 48% on his performance in office. In April, he received 53% approval and 39% disapproval.
“Democrats face a country whose opinion of President Biden has turned sharply to the negative since April,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research. “The promise of the Biden presidency — knowledge, competence and stability in tough times — have all been called into question.”
Only 37% of those surveyed gave Mr. Biden high marks on a five-point scale “for being competent and effective as president.” He received a poor rating from 50%.
Mr. Biden’s poll numbers are sinking in virtually every survey, underscoring the administration’s need for a legislative victory to bolster his flagging image.
Mr. Biden put his prestige on the line by announcing the compromise framework, which cut in half his original $3.5 trillion proposal, in an appearance Thursday on Capitol Hill.
His European trip included a Friday tete-a-tete with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
While Mr. Biden met with G-20 leaders in Rome before the climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, top administration figures made the rounds Sunday seeking to seal the deal.
“Look, we are the closest that we’ve ever been, and the president is confident that this framework that we’re putting forward can pass the House and Senate and get to his desk for signature,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on CNN. “And the reason you hear the sense of urgency on his part, it’s not just politics. It’s that the country needs this.”
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm pointed out Sunday that the 98-member Congressional Progressive Caucus endorsed the framework package shortly after it was announced.
“What happened is that the progressives came out unanimously supporting what was in the framework. They just had to see it, they had to look at the language,” Ms. Granholm said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And now he can say, he can go to COP, to Glasgow, and say that he has 100% unanimity in the Democratic caucus in the House. And that is really bringing people together over this agenda.”
Just because the far-left Democrats voted to support the package “in principle” doesn’t mean they agreed not to tinker with it.
“We are working to add things in. I mean, the negotiation is taking place,” Mr. Khanna said. “I’m going to be a yes. I think we can have the vote by Tuesday. Sen. Sanders is doing a great job to actually have Medicare negotiation. I mean, that would save money and help people with prescription costs.”
Mr. Sanders was also optimistic that the provisions could be added without delaying the bill further. “I think we can put that together within the next short period of time,” he said.
The risk for Mr. Biden is that such pricey provisions could torpedo the deal with moderate Democrats, starting with Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have not committed to the $1.75 trillion package.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, is considering holding votes Tuesday on the slimmed-down framework and the $1.25 trillion infrastructure bill, which liberals have insisted must be passed together.
A source close to Democratic leadership told The Washington Times that no decision had been made officially, but there was an increasing desire to “move forward,” especially with Mr. Biden promoting U.S. leadership overseas.
Mr. Manchin indicated to reporters Thursday that he supported the $1.75 trillion top line. He called it “negotiated.” Ms. Sinema has not said whether she would vote for it.
Ms. Sinema said in a July statement that she thought the $3.5 trillion tab on the original Build Back Better proposal was too high. She objected to the provision allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, but she supported a cap on out-of-pocket expenses for seniors, according to The Arizona Republic.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, applauded their efforts. He said it was “good that there have been some, like Sens. Sinema and Manchin, who have pushed back so it’s less bad.”
Ultimately, he said, he believed the far-left Democrats would prevail by holding the infrastructure bill “hostage” to the spending measure on climate and social programs.
“I think that the progressives will get their way,” Mr. Paul said on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” “The Bernie Sanders socialist wing of the party is going to get it all. There’s going to be a ton of spending.”
• Kery Murakami contributed to this report.