With President Biden’s economic agenda on the verge of collapse, congressional Democrats are planning to work through the weekend to craft a budget reconciliation package that can pass both chambers.
Biden spent most of yesterday attempting to resolve substantial differences between moderate and progressive Democrats on the size and scope of the proposed spending in the package. Democrats’ internal standoff comes just days before the House is set to vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill on Sept. 27. Progressive Democrats have said they will not vote for the infrastructure bill without approval of the $3.5 trillion social spending package.
Earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced they have a framework agreement with the White House over how to pay for Democrats’ bit tax-and-spend package but they did not share details about the tax increases or other measures they have agreed to include. Pelosi also told her caucus this week to prepare for “adjustments” to the package to fit the Senate’s constraints for the budget reconciliation process.
Democratic leaders have sought to frame the legislation alongside the New Deal and Great Society in terms of its transformative power. The bill would mandate universal paid family leave and expand Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision benefits. It would also guarantee prekindergarten for all children ages 3 and 4, fund better protections for the nation’s elderly, increase pay for child care workers and require employers without employer-sponsored retirement plans to automatically enroll their employees in IRAs or 401(k)-type plans.
Democratic leaders want much of the cost of these new investments to be financed by new taxes on corporations and the wealthy, while sticking to Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 per year. Centrist Democrats like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) have signaled they won’t support the package unless Democrats lower the price tag. Sinema and Manchin met with Biden this week and reportedly discussed an alternative plan in the $2 trillion range.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was also at the White House this week for meetings but emerged to reiterate that at least half of her 100-member bloc could vote against the infrastructure bill on Monday if the social spending package is not agreed upon by then.
“This is the president’s agenda, this is the Democratic agenda, and this is what we promised voters when they delivered us the House, the Senate and the White House,” Jayapal said in a statement.