Panel approves Democrats’ $ 3.5 billion bill, time is running out for Biden’s agenda

Updated 9 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats on Saturday introduced a 10-year, $ 3.5 trillion bill to strengthen the social safety net and climate programs through the House Budget Committee, but a Democrat s’ is opposed to the measure to illustrate the challenges faced by party leaders in obtaining near unanimity. they will have to pass the sprawling package through Congress.

The virtually assembled Democrat-dominated panel approved the measure in a vote close to the party line, 20-17. The passage marked a necessary but minor check of a procedural box for Democrats by bringing it closer to plenary debate. Under the budget rules, the committee was not even allowed to significantly change the 2,465-page measure, the product of 13 other House committees.

The most important work took place in an opaque procession of mostly unannounced phone calls, meetings and other bargaining sessions between party leaders and grassroots lawmakers. President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., have waged a behind-the-scenes compromise hunt to resolve internal divisions and, hopefully, they will allow the mammoth bill to be approved soon.

Moderate Representative Scott Peters, D-Calif., Joined with 16 Republicans in opposing the legislation. He was one of three Democrats who voted earlier this month against a plan favored by most of his party members to cut pharmaceutical costs by letting Medicare negotiate the prescription drugs it buys.

Party leaders have been trying for weeks to resolve disputes between Democrats over the final price of the package, which looks sure to decline. There are also disputes over which of its initiatives should be overhauled, including the extension of health insurance, tax breaks for children and health care, a push towards cleaner energy and higher levies. high on the rich and corporate.

The very slim Democratic majorities in the House and Senate mean a compromise is required. Before the measure approved by the budget panel on Saturday even hits the floor of the House – the exact timing is uncertain – it should be amended to reflect the House-Senate agreements that have been made, and further revisions. are probable.

The comprehensive bill embodies the gist of Biden’s primary national goals. Budget committee chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., Cited ‘decades of divestment’ on needs such as healthcare, education, child care and the environment as justification for the legislation .

“The future of millions of Americans and their families is at stake. We can no longer afford the costs of neglect and inaction. Now is the time to act, ”Yarmuth said.

Republicans say the proposal is unnecessary, unaffordable amid accumulated federal debt exceeding $ 28 trillion, and reflects Democrats’ willingness to put government into people’s lives. Its tax increases will cost jobs and include credits for the purchase of electric vehicles, purchases often made by people with comfortable incomes, they said.

“This bill is a disaster for working class families,” said Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, the committee’s top Republican. “It’s a big gift for the rich, it’s a comprehensive list of agenda items taken straight from Bernie Sanders’ socialist playbook.”

The unusual weekend session came as Main Democrats step up efforts to end increasingly bitter differences between the centrist and progressive wings of the party that threaten to undermine Biden’s platform.

Biden admitted on Friday that the Democrat talks were at a “dead end,” although Pelosi and Schumer were more positive in an apparent effort to build momentum and calm differences. A collapse of the measure at the hands of his own party would be a hurtful glimpse into the coming election year, in which control of the House and Senate is at stake.

To identify moderate support for an earlier budget plan, Pelosi vowed to begin the House’s consideration on Monday of another pillar of Biden’s national plans: a $ 1,000 billion collection of road and other projects. ‘infrastructure. Pelosi reaffirmed this week that the infrastructure debate will begin on Monday.

But many moderates who see the infrastructure bill as their main goal also want to cut the $ 3.5 trillion social and environmental package and cut or reshape some of its programs. Senators Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, were among the more visible centrists demanding a lower price.

In response, the progressives – their top priority is the $ 3.5 trillion measure – are threatening to vote against the infrastructure bill if it were to pass this week. Their opposition seems likely to be enough to scuttle it, and Pelosi has yet to say when a vote on the final adoption of the infrastructure measure will take place.

With each side of the party threatening to upset the other’s most cherished goal – political disaster in the making for Democrats – the main Democrats are seizing the opportunity to speed up talks on massive social and climate legislation. Compromise is a requirement, as the party cannot lose a vote in the Senate and a maximum of three in the House to succeed in the tightly divided Congress.

Biden met with more than 20 Congressional Democrats this week, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said those meetings will continue into next week.

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