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Biden turns the screws on Democrats with a call for the House to pass his economic agenda ‘right now’

<i>BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>President Joe Biden ramped up the pressure on his Capitol Hill allies on Friday
AFP via Getty Images
President Joe Biden ramped up the pressure on his Capitol Hill allies on Friday

By Kevin Liptak and Betsy Klein, CNN

President Joe Biden on Friday ratcheted up pressure on Democrats to quickly approve his sweeping domestic spending bills as the two critical components of the Democratic agenda appeared on the brink of passage.

Using a strong monthly jobs report to encourage members of his party to further bolster the economy, Biden said it was incumbent on Democrats to end their squabbling and push the two bills over the finish line. Looming over his remarks was the specter of Tuesday’s electoral thrashing, which has sparked the party’s drive to complete its legislative business.

It remained uncertain whether that would happen on Friday. Members of the party’s disparate factions were still haggling over numbers. After weeks of halting progress, few could say with certainty whether Friday would be different than previous moments when a vote seemed imminent.

Biden, who has been phoning Democrats from the White House over the last day to lock in support, said he would continue making calls from the Oval Office on Friday morning.

He said bluntly it was time for a vote. “I’m asking every member of the House of Representatives to vote yes on both these bills right now,” Biden said from the White House. “Send the infrastructure bill to my desk. Send the Build Back Better bill to the Senate.”

By late Friday, the President was “urging all members to vote for both the rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act and final passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill tonight.”

“I am confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act,” he said in a brief statement sent just before 9 p.m. ET.

At previous junctures, Biden hasn’t been as willing to call explicitly on Democrats to hold a vote right away. He’s deferred to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the timing, and sought to give lawmakers space to make their decisions.

Some of his allies have advocated for a sharper approach, believing the President should more forcefully call for immediate action on the two bills: a bipartisan $1.2 trillion public works package and a larger climate and social safety net bill.

The House had appeared close to a vote on Thursday, but negotiations stretched into another day. Pelosi and White House officials have been engaged in intensive discussions to shore up support.

Democratic leaders want to pass both measures out of the House by Friday, but a group of moderates say they first want a full analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of the roughly $1.9 trillion social safety net expansion plan.

If leadership can’t find a way to resolve the issue, they could be forced to again push back the votes in what would be an embarrassing setback for Democrats. The party has already had to punt on voting on the infrastructure bill twice in two months due to a separate set of demands from progressives.

The White House said Thursday that Biden was speaking with moderate members to encourage them to vote for the pair of bills, though stressed he was not advocating for any specific timing.

Biden emerged from his own marathon phone call effort to tout a strong October jobs report. Government numbers showed the American economy adding 531,000 jobs last month, a sharp turnabout after two months of disappointing jobs numbers.

It was welcome news for Biden and the White House, who three days earlier were confronting questions about their political strategy after a poor showing for Democrats in Tuesday elections.

Biden said a day after the vote that voters want to see government getting things done. And he reiterated Friday that it was up to Democrats to prove they had Americans’ interests in sight.

“Passing these bills will say clearly to the American people, we hear your voices, we’re going to invest in your hopes, help you secure a brighter future for yourself and your family, and make sure America wins the future in the process,” he said.

Biden’s social spending bill would expand health care, create universal pre-kindergarten and make massive investments in curbing climate change. The infrastructure bill would invest in new roads and bridges, and expand broadband internet access.

In his remarks Friday, Biden also sought to emphasize the way the two measures would improve the economy. Even with the strong jobs numbers, he acknowledged rising prices were dampening the economic recovery for some families.

‘This recovery is faster, stronger and fairer and wider than almost anyone could have predicted. That’s what the numbers say,” he said. “But we want to make sure that people continue to feel it in their lives, in their bank accounts, in their hopes and expectations for a tomorrow that’s better than today. That’s what this is all about: making sure recovery is fully felt.”

He said his bills would lower inflationary pressure and give Americans “breathing room” in their finances.

“If your number one issue is the cost of living, the number one priority should be seeing Congress pass these bills,” he said.

This story has been updated with additional background information and reporting.

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CNN’s Clare Foran, Manu Raju, Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.

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