Biden meets with Democrats at Capitol to unveil new spending proposal

October 28, 2021
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.

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden traveled to Capitol Hill on Thursday to unveil details of his $1.75 trillion social and climate spending package during a meeting with House Democrats, as he looks to push for its passage along with a separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill following months of hard-fought negotiations, according to a White House official.

Following the meeting, Biden is expected to deliver remarks outlining details of the new 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, among other economic programs.

Biden used the closed-door meeting to pitch the scaled-back spending framework, which could still change, and try 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 it was unclear if he could muster enough support to pass his legislative agenda. 

“It’s a good day,” Biden said entering the Capitol. “Everyone’s on board.”

Biden’s trip to Capitol Hill comes hours before he is expected to leave 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 left for Europe. But Democrats in the House and Senate have struggled to reach an agreement over disputes on key provisions of Biden’s economic package, which aims to expand the social safety net, and how to pay for it. 

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 as well as a new $35 billion investment in hearing aid benefits for seniors covered by Medicare.

Another $150 billion will 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 workers. 

The climate provisions, which Biden hoped to secure before attending a climate summit this week, include clean energy tax credits and incentives to spur new domestic supply chains and technologies like solar, batters 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. 

One of the biggest sticking points in negotiations was how to pay for the expansive package. The latest framework plans to implement a 15% corporate minimum tax on large firms 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.

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.

Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said he’s hopeful the parliamentarian will make a decision this week.

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. 

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

House progressives have refused to vote on a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill that has already passed in the Senate until the economic package is also passed. 

The head of the Progressive Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said she wants to see “what’s actually in the bill” rather than just a framework. She said if the estimate from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is correct that 90% of the bill is already written, it should only take two to seven days to complete the rest of the language.

“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 Sanders, I-Vt., also has concerns.

“I want to see the text,” she said. “I just want to see what’s actually in it, because it’s very difficult to make a decision on anything without seeing what’s in it.”

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who whips votes for legislation, 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. Biden is expected to give a full-throated push for House Democrats to pass each of the bills when they come up for a vote, the official said. 

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?” DeLauro asked.

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.”

Contributing: Rebecca Morin, Maureen Groppe, Bart Jansen and Matt Brown

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