Biden spoke with the Democrats — Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — in separate meetings, according to a White House official.
White House officials have made clear they’re encouraged by the direction of the infrastructure talks thus far, but major differences remain over how to finance the proposal. Biden has rejected indexing the gas tax to inflation and applying user fees to electric vehicles — two options considered by the group.
“The President thanked each senator for their engagement toward making historic investments in economic growth, middle class jobs, and the clean energy economy, and told them he was encouraged by what has taken shape but that he still has questions about the policy as well as the means for financing the bipartisan group’s proposal,” the official said.
Biden also discussed voting legislation with Manchin, just one day before the Senate is slated to hold a procedural vote on a sweeping voting rights measure, the official said. Manchin, who opposes the original measure, has floated compromise language and is in talks with Democrats on the issue.
Biden expressed his “sincere appreciation” for Manchin’s efforts to this point, but also underscored his view of the urgency of the issue, the official said.
“The President conveyed that he sees voting rights as one of the most urgent issues facing our nation during his administration, and made it clear how important he thinks it is that the Senate find a path forward on this issue,” the official said.
The procedural vote is expected to be blocked by Republicans, who are unified in their opposition to the bill and Manchin’s compromise language.
Biden’s discussions with the two moderate Democrats carry an importance beyond the ongoing bipartisan infrastructure talks. Biden has called on congressional Democrats to start work on a parallel process that would allow for many of his priorities to pass without Republican votes.
In order for that effort to have a pathway forward in a Senate where Democrats have the barest of majorities, Manchin and Sinema would have to be on board.
“The President also made clear that he is at the same time focused on budget resolution discussions in the Senate,” the White House official said.
The outsized role Manchin and Sinema play in the prospects for Biden’s agenda has been clear for months, but Biden has increasingly focused his attention on the pair in recent weeks as the administration works to find a path forward for his sweeping agenda.
When separate talks between Biden and a group of Senate Republicans fell apart earlier this month, two of the first calls Biden made were to Manchin and Sinema.
CNN’s Lauren Fox contributed to this report.