'Choices that need to be made': White House says 'fundamental change in our economy' attainable with smaller bill

The White House is preparing to make "choices" as congressional Democrats start chipping away at President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion social welfare and climate pitch to make it cheaper for centrist members of their party.

"We are at a point where there are choices that need to be made," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday. "That's the point we're at now, given there will be fewer dollars that will be spent."


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats this week she preferred to do fewer programs "well" rather than shorten the current proposals' timespan. Psaki said Biden believed his job was to "find common ground so that we can move forward with an agenda that the American people demand that we pass."

"A bill that doesn't get passed is nothing," she added.

Psaki seemed confident that Democrats could agree on "something historic." But she admitted negotiations were not at the stage in which centrist Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema were providing counteroffers to their liberal colleagues. Instead, she described the talks as "ongoing discussions" despite a tentative Oct. 31 deadline.

"The president wants to make fundamental change in our economy, and he feels coming out of the pandemic is exactly the time to do that," Psaki said. "We're not going to have the same opportunity to do it for some time."

She later clarified that "was not a political assessment" of the Democratic Party's chances before next year's midterm elections.

Liberal House Democrats have refused to support the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal approved by the Senate in August until they have reached a rough framework for the larger spending package with their Senate counterparts. The October deadline, like an earlier Sept. 27 one, is likely to slip as Congress grapples with federal government funding, which is due to run out on Dec. 3, and an approaching debt ceiling.


"There's no question that we don't want it to be a political football anymore in the future," Psaki said Tuesday of the country's borrowing authority. "Right now, we're working with Congress to raise the debt limit."

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