(GLASGOW, Scotland) — President Joe Biden’s spent his last hours on his overseas trip with a news conference to tout U.S. climate policies and close out what he called “significant progress” made at the COP26 summit — but he was also forced to respond to Democratic infighting over his climate change policies at home.
“Mister President, you’re touting on this visit the $1.7 trillion plan that includes climate but your party is still not united behind it,” a reporter said, raising progressives battling with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., over the social spending package Democrats seek to pass through reconciliation — which would need every Democratic Senate vote. “Today, he said he never signed off on the framework. So, do you have a specific commitment from Senator Manchin to support your Build Back Better bill — yes or no — and how do you respond to those criticisms?”
“Number one, I’m not going to talk about the specifics of my conversations,” Biden replied. “He will vote for — in this proposal what he has anticipated and that is looking at the fine print and the detail of what comes out of the house in terms of the actual legislative initiative. I believe that Joe will be there.”
Although there’s no definite sign a vote on the already Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill will pass the House soon, progressives say they trust Biden to deliver 51 Senate votes he promised on the larger social spending bill, and the president offered an optimistic outlook, despite Manchin’s new concerns that it would cost a lot more than claimed.
“Seventeen Nobel laureates and economists said it’s going to lower inflation and raise wages and increase competition and create two million jobs in a year, et cetera, and so I think that Joe is looking for the precise detail to make sure nothing got slipped in — in terms of how the legislation got written that is different than he acknowledged he would agree to, but I think we’ll get this done,” Biden said.
He took the same tone when asked about election day in Virginia — where the race for governor is being considered a litmus test for former President Donald Trump’s influence on voters while Democrats’ agenda is stalled.
Asked if a Democratic loss could signal real losses for the party in the midterms, Biden said, “We’re going to win.”
“The race is very close. It’s about who shows up, who turns out, and grant it, I did win by a large margin, but the point of the matter is that I think, this is going to be what we all knew from the beginning. This is going to be a tight race,” he said, acknowledging results may be slow because of the stiff competition. “I think we’re going to win New Jersey as well.”
“The off-year is always unpredictable, especially when we don’t have a general election going on at the same time,” he added. “But having said that, I don’t believe, and I’ve not seen any evidence that whether or not I am doing well or poorly, whether or not I’ve got my agenda passed or not is going to have any real impact on winning or losing. Even if we had passed my agenda, I wouldn’t claim we won because Biden’s agenda passed,” Biden said.
In brief remarks ahead of taking questions, Biden touted the U.S. as leading the way with initiatives such as reducing methane emissions and deforestation.
He said investing in a clean energy future will take a whole society effort and is both an economic and “moral imperative.”
Earlier in the day, the president emphasized innovation of new technologies, and the adoption of existing ones, to galvanize the fight against climate change. He talked about deforestation and how the U.S. will meet carbon emission goals after the White House announced a new plan for methane reduction which he said more than 100 countries have signed, too.
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