Biden unveils 'historic economic framework' as he urges Dems to pass legislative agenda

·9 min read

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will have to wait to claim victory on his nearly $2 trillion plan to expand the nation's social safety net and combat climate change.

Hours after the president unveiled the framework of the $1.85 trillion package he hoped would win swift endorsement from the Democratic-led Congress, lawmakers acknowledged they could not muster the support to pass it. That impasse means more delay not only on Biden's Build Back Better plan but also a separate $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that House progressives have held up because they refuse to support it without agreement on the larger bill.

With the infrastructure bill in limbo, the HouseThursday night passed an extension of the current highway and transit programs through Dec. 3 by a vote of 358-59 to ensure states had adequate funding to run their transportation systems. But the Dec. 3 extension, which still needs Senate approval, also suggests that negotiations over the larger bill could still be weeks away from resolution.

Biden outlined details of his revamped $1.85 trillion social and climate spending package on Thursday, hailing it as a "historic economic framework" even as it remained unclear whether he had enough votes in Congress to pass it, along with a separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill tangled up in negotiations.

"No one got everything they wanted, including me. But that's what compromise is. That's consensus," Biden said in remarks describing the scaled-back framework deal, which includes universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, expanding the child tax credit for one year, expanding health care and $555 billion in climate change provisions.

"And that's what I ran on. I've long said compromise and consensus are the only way to get big things done in a democracy," he added.

Biden's remarks came after he traveled to Capitol Hill to pitch House Democrats on the spending framework, which is still subject to change, and to convince enough progressives to pass the package – along with the Senate-passed infrastructure bill –despite the loss of several Democratic priorities.

The president expressed confidence that the White House’s proposed framework will pass both chambers of Congress, but key members who've fought over what the package should entail have yet to explicitly endorse the proposal.

Text of Biden's bill was released Thursday afternoon, something House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pointed out in a news conference touting the plan. She hopes the text will appease House progressives enough so the chamber can move forward on a vote on the infrastructure legislation.

House progressives have been holding up a vote on the infrastructure bill until the legislative text was released, or a vote in the Senate happened.

"People say they want to see text. The text is up," Pelosi said, adding that lawmakers can “review” it and recommend changes during an upcoming hearing in the Rules Committee on Thursday afternoon.

House Democrats said Pelosi could call for votes on Biden’s social welfare legislation and the infrastructure bill as early as Thursday, despite uncertainties about the continuing negotiations.

Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said Pelosi hoped to hold votes Thursday.

“We're just waiting to see how it sorts out, but the president couldn't have been any better," he said.

Biden's trip to Capitol Hill came hours before he left for Europe to attend the Group of 20 summit in Rome, followed by the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

The president wanted to have at least a framework on his social spending package before he departed. But Senate and House Democrats have struggled to reach an agreement on key provisions of Biden's economic package, which aims to expand the social safety net, and how to pay for it.

"There are still details, of course, to be ironed out," White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on the flight to Rome. "We see today as making progress."

President Biden walks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Oct. 28, 2021, during a visit to meet with House Democrats. Biden is pushing his revised domestic policy bill and a related bipartisan infrastructure plan with fractious House Democrats after days of prolonged negotiations over his ambitious social and climate policies and how to pay for them.
President Biden walks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Oct. 28, 2021, during a visit to meet with House Democrats. Biden is pushing his revised domestic policy bill and a related bipartisan infrastructure plan with fractious House Democrats after days of prolonged negotiations over his ambitious social and climate policies and how to pay for them.

What's in the proposal?

The framework – which was trimmed of several key Democratic priorities including federal paid family leave and lowering the cost of prescription drugs – also includes $130 billion to reduce health care premiums for people covered under the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicaid coverage for an additional 4 million people. There's also a new $35 billion investment in hearing aid benefits for seniors covered by Medicare – but not vision or dental as initially proposed.

Another $150 billion would go toward easing a backlog for in-home care for seniors and disabled Americans as well as to improve working conditions for home health care employees.

The climate provisions include clean energy tax credits and incentives to spur new domestic supply chains and technologies like solar, batteries and advanced materials.

Though the president's campaign pledge to include two years of free community college failed to make it into the framework, the plan includes $40 billion for Pell grants and investment in historically Black colleges and universities and higher education institutions.

The proposal includes $150 billion to build 1 million affordable housing units.

Some of the provisions are time-limited to reduce the overall cost of the bill.

Still, Biden called the latest framework a "fundamental game changer for families and for our economy."

"This is about competitiveness versus complacency," he said in remarks. "It's about leading the world or letting the world pass us by."

One of the biggest sticking points in negotiations was how to pay for the expansive package. The latest outline plans to implement a 15% corporate minimum tax on large companies and a 1% surcharge on corporate stock buybacks. It also includes a global minimum tax and a new 5% surtax on income over $10 million a year, according to White House officials. The plan also includes investment in the Internal Revenue Service to boost enforcement for tax evasion.

The U.S. Capitol building is seen at sunrise ahead of a meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and House Democrats over continued negotiations on the domestic spending Bills before the President departs for Europe on October 28, 2021 in Washington, DC.
The U.S. Capitol building is seen at sunrise ahead of a meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and House Democrats over continued negotiations on the domestic spending Bills before the President departs for Europe on October 28, 2021 in Washington, DC.

More: 'Billionaires income tax': What we know about Sen. Ron Wyden's plan

The framework will include a provision that would offer protection for immigrants in the U.S. illegally, but details on what that will consist of have yet to be released and must be approved by the Senate parliamentarian.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said he’s hopeful the parliamentarian will make a decision this week. An additional immigration provision would bump the price tag to $1.85 trillion.

Progressive, moderate support unclear

White House officials refused to say whether key Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – two moderates who have stalled negotiations – had signed off on the new bill but emphasized Biden was confident the plan would be approved by all 50 Democrats in the Senate and would pass in the House.

"It's in the hands of the House," Manchin told reporters when asked if he likes the framework.

Sinema was likewise noncommittal in a statement she released Thursday.

"After months of productive, good-faith negotiations with President Biden and the White House, we have made significant progress on the proposed budget reconciliation package," she said. "I look forward to getting this done, expanding economic opportunities and helping everyday families get ahead."

More: Why one key Democrat doesn't want the federal government picking up the tab for Medicaid expansion

On Capitol Hill, the president urged House Democrats to back his new framework and insisted that it would get 50 votes in the Senate, according to a source familiar who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the closed-door meeting.

He said they “badly need a vote” on both measures and added it wasn’t “hyperbole” to say that the House and Senate majorities and his presidency hinge on “what happens in the next week.”

The head of the Progressive Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said earlier Thursday she wanted to see “what’s actually in the bill” rather than just a framework.

“I think that will show tremendous momentum,” Jayapal said of a framework. “But we want to see the actual text because we don't want any confusion and misunderstandings.”

Jayapal said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also has concerns.

"It needs to be improved," Sanders later told reporters.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., reiterated that progressives want to see both bills move at the same time. In the narrowly divided House, the opposition of a handful of Democrats could doom either bill.

"If there is urgency in getting this done, the senators need to understand that urgency as well," she said.

Durbin said it is not clear that all 50 members of the Democratic Caucus will support the social welfare legislation.

"No, I wish I could say yes, but there's a great deal of uncertainty within the caucus as to what's contained in the deal," Durbin said. "I will tell you there is a will to do it. And I think a positive feeling 48 senators, we've been waiting to satisfy two senators, hope that we can do that soon."

The president will defer to Pelosi on timing of when to bring the bills to the floor, but the spending package framework will guide the writing of the legislative text, according to a White House official.

The head of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., voiced disappointment that paid family leave is being dropped from the legislation and that a refundable child tax credit is extended for one year rather than permanently.

“That’s obviously not where I wanted to go,” DeLauro said of the child tax credit.

Members of Congress get paid time off when they are sick, she said. “Isn't it unfortunate that will not be the case for the American people?”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said before Biden traveled to the Hill that there “just aren’t enough details right now” to get her support.

There are other ways of getting there besides full legislative language, she said, “but it needs to be something a little bit more than a back of an envelope.”

“Because there's been so many changes in this process,” she said. “Yes. No. Doing the Hokey Pokey. One foot in. One foot out. So we need certainty that we're going to be able to deliver for working people.”

Former President Barack Obama offered his praise to help shore up Democratic support, calling the framework the “best chance we’ve had in years to build on the progress we made during my administration and address some of the most urgent challenges of our time.”

“In a country as large and diverse as ours, progress can often feel frustrating and slow, with small victories accompanied by frequent setbacks,” Obama said in a statement. “But once in a while, it’s still possible to take a giant leap forward. That’s what the Build Back Better framework represents.”

Contributing: Rebecca Morin and Matt Brown

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden unveils 'economic framework,' urges Democrats to pass plan

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