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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 
federal shutdown.

   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 
private conversations.

   "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 
their careers.

   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 
be included.

   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."

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