...

Panel approves Dems' $3.5 trillion bill, crunch time for Biden agenda




  • In Business
  • 2021-09-25 22:03:17Z
  • By USA TODAY
 

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats pushed a $3.5 trillion, 10-year bill strengthening social safety net and climate programs through the House Budget Committee on Saturday, but one Democrat opposed the measure in an illustration of the challenges party leaders face in getting the near unanimity they'll need to push the sprawling package through Congress.

The Democratic-dominated panel, meeting virtually, approved the measure on a near party-line vote, 20-17. Passage marked a necessary but minor checking of a procedural box for Democrats by edging it a step closer to debate by the full House. Under budget rules, the committee wasn't even allowed to significantly amend the 2,465-page measure, the product of 13 other House committees.

The more important work has been happening in an opaque procession of mostly unannounced phone calls, meetings and other bargaining sessions among party leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers. President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have led a behind-the-scenes hunt for compromises to resolve internal divisions and, they hope, allow approval of the mammoth bill soon.

Moderate Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., joined all 16 Republicans in opposing the legislation. He was among three Democrats who earlier this month voted against a plan favored by most in his party to lower pharmaceutical costs by letting Medicare negotiate for the prescription drugs it buys.

Party leaders have tried for weeks to resolve differences among Democrats over the package's final price tag, which seems sure to shrink. There are also disputes over which of its initiatives should be reshaped, among them expanded Medicare, tax breaks for children and health care, a push toward cleaner energy and higher levies on the rich and corporations.

Democrats' wafer-thin majorities in the House and Senate mean compromise is mandatory. Before the measure the Budget panel approved Saturday even reaches the House floor - the exact timing is uncertain - it is expected to be changed to reflect whatever House-Senate accords have been reached, and additional revisions are likely.

The overall bill embodies the crux of Biden's top domestic goals. Budget panel chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., cited "decades of disinvestment" on needs like health care, education, child care and the environment as the rationale for the legislation.

More: History shows why moderate Democrats may be hesitant about Biden's agenda as 2022 elections loom

"The futures of millions of Americans and their families are at stake. We can no longer afford the costs of neglect and inaction. The time to act is now," Yarmuth said.

Republicans say the proposal is unneeded, unaffordable amid accumulated federal debt exceeding $28 trillion and reflects Democrats' drive to insert government into people's lives. Its tax boosts will cost jobs and include credits for buying electric vehicles, purchases often made by people with comfortable incomes, they said.

"This bill is a disaster for working-class families," said Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, the committee's top Republican. "It's a big giveaway to the wealthy, it's a laundry list of agenda items pulled right out of the Bernie Sanders socialist playbook."

The unusual weekend session occurred as top Democrats amp up efforts to end increasingly bitter disputes between the party's centrist and progressive wings that threaten to undermine Biden's agenda.

Biden conceded Friday that talks among Democrats were at a "stalemate," though Pelosi and Schumer have been more positive in an apparent effort to build momentum and soothe differences. A collapse of the measure at his own party's hands would be a wounding preview to the coming election year, in which House and Senate control are at stake.

To nail down moderates' support for an earlier budget blueprint, Pelosi promised to begin House consideration by Monday of another pillar of Biden's domestic plans: a $1 trillion collection of roadway and other infrastructure projects. Pelosi reaffirmed this week that the infrastructure debate would begin Monday.

More: Congress returns to work facing major decisions on Biden's agenda and infrastructure

But many moderates who consider the infrastructure bill their top goal also want to cut the $3.5 trillion social and environment package and trim or reshape some of its programs. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have been among the most visible centrists demanding a smaller price tag.

In response, progressives - their top priority is the $3.5 trillion measure - are threatening to vote against the infrastructure bill should it come up for a vote this week. Their opposition seems likely to be enough to scuttle it, and Pelosi hasn't definitively said when a vote on final passage of the infrastructure measure will occur.

With each portion of the party threatening to upend the other's most cherished goal - a political disaster in the making for Democrats - top Democrats are using the moment to accelerate talks on the massive social and climate legislation. Compromise is a requirement, because the party can lose no votes in the Senate and a maximum of three in the House to succeed in the narrowly split Congress.

Biden met with over 20 congressional Democrats this week, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said such meetings would continue next week.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Panel OKs Dems' $3.5 trillion bill, crunch time for Biden agenda

COMMENTS

More Related News

Schumer Nears Make-or-Break Moment to Deliver on Biden Agenda
Schumer Nears Make-or-Break Moment to Deliver on Biden Agenda

(Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer faces staggering policy challenges -- President Joe Biden's economic agenda, voting rights legislation...

"It
"It's usually noticeable": GOP senator calls for senility test for aging leaders

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an "Axios on HBO" interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of ...

'This is our last chance': Biden urged to act as climate agenda hangs by a thread

Failure to pass legislation to cut emissions before the UN summit in Glasgow could be catastrophic for efforts to curb global heating Joe Biden has been...

Cutting Massive Bill Threatens to Blow Up Progressive Unity
Cutting Massive Bill Threatens to Blow Up Progressive Unity

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Photos Getty ImagesDemocrats promised to Build Back Better in the Joe Biden era, but the political reality surrounding ...

What
What's actually in Biden's Build Back Better bill? And how would it affect you?

Most Americans know the price tag but don't know what's actually in the bill. Here's a crash course Joe Biden spoke about his Build Back Better agenda in...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Business