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Sinema meets with Biden as bipartisan talks teeter

POLITICO logo POLITICO 7/27/2021 By Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett
a man standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leaves a meeting between a group of bipartisan Senators in the basement of the U.S. Capitol Building. © Samuel Corum/Getty Images Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leaves a meeting between a group of bipartisan Senators in the basement of the U.S. Capitol Building.

President Joe Biden is getting directly involved in the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations, meeting with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the lead Democratic negotiator on the discussions, at the White House on Tuesday.

The meeting comes as the Arizona Democrat and a group of 10 senators from both parties race to wrap up the $1.2 trillion package amid stubborn disagreements on several policy areas and the bill’s financing. A second source familiar with the meeting said that Biden and Sinema met to discuss progress toward finalizing an agreement.

Sinema in an interview said that her Tuesday meeting with Biden was "productive" and said the talks are "moving forward." When asked if the discussions are on track, she replied: "It's always hard to answer that, but yes. That's also my answer every day."

Senate Democrats are growing increasingly impatient with the bipartisan talks. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday reiterated that the Senate could stay in over the weekend to wrap up the discussions.

“We are making good progress on both tracks, the bipartisan infrastructure and the budget resolution with reconciliation instructions,” Schumer said on the floor. “Senators should prepare to work through the weekend in order to finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

Schumer has vowed that the Senate will pass the bipartisan package and a budget blueprint for a $3.5 trillion social spending package before the August recess. The group of 10 negotiators met Monday evening, but have yet to resolve several outstanding issues, including broadband and transit.

Sinema has yet to sign on to the $3.5 trillion social spending package and her vote and declined Tuesday to further discuss her position. She, along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), will be crucial to getting Democrats’ biggest priorities on climate change over the finish line. With an evenly split Senate, Schumer cannot afford to lose a single vote.

But Sinema and Manchin have focused their attention on finalizing the bipartisan agreement. Manchin suggested Monday that Democrats’ social spending package would not come to fruition without a bipartisan deal. Sinema met privately with Biden earlier this year and has stayed closely in touch with the White House as she seeks to reach an agreement with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on a bipartisan infrastructure package.

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