Biden,Congress Face Big Week for Agenda09/27 06:03
It's a consequential week for President Joe Biden's agenda, as Democratic
leaders delicately trim back his $3.5 trillion "Build Back Better" package to
win over remaining lawmakers and work to quickly pass legislation to avoid a
WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's a consequential week for President Joe Biden's
agenda, as Democratic leaders delicately trim back his $3.5 trillion "Build
Back Better" package to win over remaining lawmakers and work to quickly pass
legislation to avoid a federal shutdown.
An expected Monday vote on a related $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure
package is now postponed until Thursday, amid ongoing negotiations. More
immediately, the Senate has a test vote set Monday to keep the government
funded and avert a federal debt default before Thursday's fiscal year-end
deadline. That package stands to run into a blockade by Republican senators --
all but ensuring lawmakers will have to try again later in the week.
All this while Biden's domestic agenda hangs in the balance, at risk of
collapse and political fallout if he and Democratic leaders cannot pull their
party together to deliver what could be a signature piece of legislation and
the biggest overhaul of the nation's tax and spending priorities in decades.
Over the weekend, Biden personally spoke with lawmakers on the path forward,
according to a White House official who requested anonymity to discuss the
"Let me just say, it's an eventful week," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said
Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
Biden, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are deep into
negotiations over the president's broader proposal, which is being chiseled
back to win over key senators and a few House lawmakers who have so far refused
the $3.5 trillion price tag and the tax increases on corporations and the
wealthy to pay for it.
Behind-the-scenes talks churned, allowing for needed breathing room after
Monday's anticipated vote on the companion $1 trillion public works measure was
postponed. The two bills are related, and centrists and progressive factions
are at odds at prioritizing one ahead of the other. Pelosi announced the
Thursday vote in a letter late Sunday evening to colleagues, noting it's also a
deadline for related transportation programs in the infrastructure bill.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., who led a group of House moderates in a
securing a vote on the slimmer infrastructure bill, said earlier Sunday he
wouldn't be bothered by a slight delay. He was optimistic both pieces of
legislation could be resolved this week.
The more difficult action now lies in the Senate, as Democrats are under
pressure to amass the votes for Biden's big package. It would provide an
expansion of existing health, education and child care programs for Americans
young and old, alongside new federal efforts to curb climate change.
Republicans are lockstep opposed to Biden's proposal, which would be paid
for by increasing the corporate tax rate, from 21% to 26.5% on businesses
earning more than $5 million a year, and raising the top rate on individuals
from 37% to 39.6% for those earning more than $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for
Two Democratic holdouts, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten
Sinema of Arizona, also have said they won't support a bill of that size.
Manchin has previously proposed spending of $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion.
Asked Sunday on ABC if she agrees the final number on the so-called
reconciliation bill will be "somewhat smaller" than $3.5 trillion, Pelosi
responded: "That seems self-evident."
"We'll see how the number comes down and what we need," she added. "I think
even those who want a smaller number, support the vision of the president, and
this is really transformative."
Her comments reflected the enormous stakes for the coming week, one that
could define the Biden presidency and shape the political contours of next
year's midterm elections.
For Pelosi and Schumer, two veteran political leaders, it is the job of
Democrats have only a few votes to spare in the House and no votes to spare
in the 50-50 Senate, since there is no Republican support expected for Biden's
massive agenda. Some Republican senators did back the $1 trillion public works
bill, but now House Republicans are objecting, saying it is too much.
While progressives say they have already compromised enough on Biden's big
bill, having come down from a bill they originally envisioned at $6 trillion,
some are also acknowledging the more potential changes.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who heads the Congressional Progressive
Caucus, didn't rule out additional cuts to the $3.5 trillion proposal to reach
"If somebody wants to take something out, we need to hear what that is," she
The House Budget Committee on Saturday advanced a first version of the $3.5
trillion, 10-year bill, though one Democrat voted "no," illustrating the
challenges party leaders face.
Pelosi suggested that House-Senate agreement could be reached this week,
depending on rulings from the Senate parliamentarian on what provisions could
The overall bill embodies the crux of Biden's top domestic goals, with
billions for rebuilding infrastructure, tackling climate change and expanding
or introducing a range of services, from free prekindergarten and to child tax
breaks to dental, vision and hearing aid care for older Americans.
While Democrats are largely in agreement on Biden's vision -- many ran their
campaigns on the longstanding party priorities -- stubborn disputes remain.
Among them are splits over which initiatives should be reshaped, including how
to push toward cleaner energy or to lower prescription drug costs.
Republicans say the proposal isn't needed and can't be afforded given
accumulated federal debt exceeding $28 trillion. They also argue that it
reflects Democrats' drive to insert government into people's lives.
Gottheimer spoke to CNN's "State of the Union" and Jayapal appeared on CBS'
"Face the Nation."