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Biden to meet with House Democrats before heading to Europe

Washington — President Biden is scheduled to meet with House Democrats on Capitol Hill on Thursday morning to update them on plans to pass his social spending package and the bipartisan infrastructure plan, White House officials told CBS News.

The president will then return to the White House to address the nation "about the path forward for his economic agenda and the next steps to getting it done," according to the White House. Shortly after noon, several hours later than originally scheduled, Mr. Biden will fly to Rome for a meeting Friday with Pope Francis and a summit with Group of 20 leaders.

Mr. Biden's visit to Capitol Hill comes as negotiations have continued among Senate Democrats over his social spending plan, known as Build Back Better. Democratic lawmakers were haggling over final details of the legislation on Wednesday, with the fate of a new paid family leave plan — a signature campaign pledge by Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats — in doubt amid opposition from Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.  

But Senate Democrats including Cory Booker and Patty Murray insisted that no final decision has been made about paid family leave, a provision supported by progressives as well as by a number of moderates. Mr. Biden said last week at a town hall that the proposal for 12 weeks of paid family leave might be trimmed to four weeks.

Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal told reporters outside the Capitol on Wednesday that over 40 members of her caucus would vote against the infrastructure bill, which has been approved by the Senate, if it came to the floor before the social spending plan is complete and agreed upon by Manchin and another Democratic holdout, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. 

Mr. Biden and top White House aides met with House lawmakers Tuesday afternoon. One member described the president as a "master negotiator" who is "building momentum to get this done." 

While the White House had hoped to have landed on a final bill before Mr. Biden went to Europe, press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that they are preparing to continue talks while he is out of town. "There are phones on Air Force One and phones in Europe," Psaki said.

Mr. Biden's first stop on the trip will be the Vatican, where he will meet with Pope Francis. Psaki said Wednesday that Mr. Biden, who is Catholic, and Pope Francis will discuss a "range of issues," including poverty, combating the climate crisis, ending the COVID-19 pandemic." This will the fourth time Mr. Biden and the pope will meet. 

Mr. Biden will then head to Rome for the Group of 20 summit of world leaders, and then on to Glasgow for the United Nations climate summit, known as COP26.