Biden snuggles with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill over infrastructure bills
Washington – President Biden traveled to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a meeting with Senate Democrats to discuss dual infrastructure proposals that were making their way through the Senate, including awhich was announced Tuesday night.
“We’re going to get there,” Biden said before entering the lunch with the Senate Democratic caucus alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
In a reading from the meeting, the White House said Mr. Biden “thanked the Democratic Senate caucus for the groundbreaking work they had done to reach the budget resolution deal announced last night,” and “also touted the benefits of the historic bipartisan framework infrastructure that constitutes the other half of its national economic agenda.
Democratic senators called the mood of the meeting with Mr Biden upbeat and encouraging, and said the president had answered several questions. Several senators also said they understood that the $ 3.5 trillion would be spent over ten years.
“The Democrats are excited. This is our chance. It will really change the country in a fundamental way,” Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown told reporters after the meeting with Biden. “People who have been screwed by this government and by corporate interests will finally see a level playing field.”
Schumer had announced Tuesday after a lengthy meeting that Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee had reached agreement on the bill. The measure will include Mr Biden’s ‘human’ infrastructure priorities not covered by a bipartisan proposal, such as childcare, healthcare, education and additional provisions related to climate change. Democrats will attempt to pass the measure through the Senate through reconciliation, a process that will allow the legislation to pass without any Republican votes.
“There is a long way to go. But the fact that we were able to meet last night with diverse views on the Budget Committee was a big blow,” Schumer said in a speech to the Senate Wednesday. . The bill will also include an extension of Medicare benefits to cover dental, hearing and vision care, and will contain a provision expanding the child tax credits established by the American Rescue Plan.
As this larger bill is unlikely to garner Republican votes, it must have the support of the 50 Democrats, which means it will need the support of both ideological ends of the party. Senator Mark Warner, considered the most moderate Democrat on the Budget Committee, backed the $ 3.5 trillion deal on Tuesday evening.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the deciding vote for Democrats, said he “wanted to revisit” the proposal and appeared open to the bill if it were fully funded.
“They have worked hard, they should have the proposal, the president is going to come today and explain,” Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “We’ll listen to that, we’ll look at the proposal, look at the priorities they have for our country, and then basically look at how we’re going to pay for it.”
The bill must also retain the support of progressives in the party to pass, meaning the price is unlikely to come down any further. Budget committee chairman Bernie Sanders, who previously backed a $ 6 trillion reconciliation bill, gave his backing to the $ 3.5 trillion deal on Tuesday, calling it “the most significant law passed since the Great Depression “.
Progressives appeared to be in line on Wednesday. Senator Ed Markey, who has repeatedly called for any reconciliation bill to include strong climate provisions, told reporters on Capitol Hill the bill was “a good start.” Senator Elizabeth Warren called this a “big step forward”.
“Would I have liked to have had even more numbers? Yes, but there are 50 members in the Democratic caucus. We don’t get any support from Republicans,” Sanders told reporters. However, he also suggested that progressive immigration priorities and lowering prescription drug costs would be included in the bill, and said he hoped the House “could do even better” with its. own resolution.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters on Wednesday that she believed her caucus’ priorities would be included in the reconciliation deal, which she sees as a “down payment.”
According to a senior Democratic official, the bill would include provisions to meet the president’s goals of 80% clean electricity and 50% economy-wide carbon emissions by 2030, and create a Civilian Climate Corps, a priority for Markey. It will also include funding for programs outlined in the U.S. plan for Mr. Biden’s families, such as universal preschool, paid family and medical leave, nutritional assistance and affordable housing.
Funding for the bill will come from tax reform, health savings and “long-term economic growth” according to the aide, which means the administration and Senate Democrats expect part of the bill is amortized. Aspects of tax reform are expected to include higher taxes for wealthier Americans and businesses, while health savings will include reducing prescription drug costs and repealing a reimbursement rule. Trump era. Mr Biden had previously proposed raising the income tax rates of the richest Americans and raising the minimum corporate tax rate as methods of financing major infrastructure spending, but these ideas fail. have no Republican support.
As per Mr. Biden’s promises, the bill would ban tax increases for Americans earning less than $ 400,000 a year, small businesses, and family farms.
Democrats have limited time to move forward with this bill and the bipartisan infrastructure proposal before lawmakers leave Washington for the August recess. Democratic senators must complete the development of a budget resolution, which will set out instructions for passing the bill through reconciliation. Schumer has also said he would like to present the bipartisan agreement to the Senate by the week of July 19, but it is not clear whether the wording of the bill will be finalized by then.
It is also unclear how the deal on the reconciliation bill will affect Republican support for the bipartisan deal. With the $ 579 billion in new spending included in the bipartisan proposal, total infrastructure spending would rise to over $ 4 trillion. Republicans have raised concerns over what they see as overspending, and Mr Biden had to assure GOP negotiators that the bipartisan bill and the reconciliation bill were unrelated. .
“I think it’s harder, not easier to pass the infrastructure bill,” said Republican Senator John Thune, the minority whip. “It certainly makes it difficult to get Republican votes for the infrastructure bill itself.”
But GOP Senator Rob Portman, one of the key negotiators on the bipartisan bill, told reporters on Wednesday that the two bills were not linked and that Republicans were continuing to work to find an agreement on their package.
“I think it’s a real mistake what they’re doing, but it doesn’t affect us at all and we’re on a whole different track,” said Portman.
The bipartisan bill will need the support of 10 Republicans as well as the 50 Democrats to move forward, and while 11 Republicans previously suggested they would vote for the bipartisan proposal, some of them now appear cold-eyed. These concerns may be exacerbated by an assessment by the Congressional Budget Office, which is expected to reveal how much the bill will actually cost – and whether the payments suggested by senators would really cover the price.
Jack Turman contributed to this report.