Joe Biden Pitches House Democrats On Social Spending Deal

The president presented a framework for an agreement that trims much-sought programs. It's unclear whether wary progressives will accept it.

WASHINGTON ― President Joe Biden presented House Democrats with the contours of a $1.75 trillion deal on his social spending and climate package on Thursday, aiming to convince wary lawmakers to vote on his bipartisan infrastructure bill by the end of the week.

Dozens of progressives previously said they would not support moving forward with the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill without first seeing the legislative text of the accompanying Build Back Better Act, a mark of distrust in their moderate colleagues in the Senate.

“We can’t have a situation where there’s any opportunity for misunderstanding,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Wednesday.

It’s not immediately clear whether Biden’s deal, which was negotiated primarily between the White House and Senate Democrats, can win the support of Democrats in the House. Biden initially proposed a package totaling $3.5 trillion over 10 years. He was forced to jettison or significantly narrow many of its programs at the demands of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

“We badly need a vote on both of these measures,” Biden told House Democrats in a private caucus meeting on Thursday, according to a source familiar with his remarks. “I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week.”

Biden, speaking in the East Room of the White House before leaving for a global climate conference in Scotland, emphasized the impact of the social spending, the climate provisions, and the accompanying bipartisan deal on infrastructure on the lives of everyday Americans. But he said nothing about when Congress should vote on either piece of legislation.

“This agenda, the agenda that’s in these bills, is what 81 million people voted for,” Biden said.

One major idea that did not make it into the deal was a proposal to make prescription drugs more affordable by allowing the government to regulate prices. Democrats were hoping to use the savings from the popular reforms to help finance the broader bill, and to help millions of Americans struggling with medication costs, but Sinema and other Democrats with ties to the pharmaceutical industry objected.

A senior administration official said on a press call on Thursday there are “not yet enough votes” in Congress to pass prescription drug reform.

Democrats were also forced to cut paid family leave and sick leave programs from the legislation after opposition from Manchin, who expressed concern with the deficit.

White House fact sheet on President Joe Biden's Build Back Better deal framework.
White House fact sheet on President Joe Biden's Build Back Better deal framework.
White House

The framework includes six years of funding for universal preschool; extends the child tax credit for one year, with monthly payments for households earning up to $150,000 per year; allows Medicare to cover the cost of hearing benefits; strengthens Medicaid; and provides $150 billion to expand caregiving for older adults and disabled people.

The bill would also include $550 billion in clean energy and climate investments, which administration officials are calling the “largest effort to combat climate change in American history.”

The White House claimed the Build Back Better Act will be fully paid for via a mix of new taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and will in fact reduce the deficit.

Senior Biden administration officials said the president believes the framework will win the support of all 50 Democratic senators and will pass the House, though Biden intends to leave the exact timing of votes on both the Build Back Better bill and the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill up to Congress.

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