By Lisa Mascaro, Ahmer Madhani and Farnoush Amiri, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said he had reached a “historic economic framework” with Democrats in Congress on his sweeping domestic policy package today.
Biden’s remarks at the White House came after he traveled to Capitol Hill to make the case to House Democrats for the domestic package — $1.75 trillion of social services and climate change programs — that the White House believes can pass the 50-50 Senate.
“It will fundamentally change the lives of millions of people for the better,” Biden said.
“Let’s get this done.”
Together with a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill heading for final votes possibly as soon as Thursday, Biden claimed a domestic achievement modeled on those of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.
“I need your votes,” Biden told the lawmakers earlier.
Biden was eager to have a deal in hand before departing for the global summits. But at best, he was leaving with a framework while the details were still being sewn up. The revised package has lost some top priorities, frustrating many Democrats as the president’s ambitions make way for the political realities of the narrowly divided Congress.
Paid family leave and efforts to lower prescription drug pricing are now gone entirely from the package, drawing outrage from some lawmakers and advocates.
Still in the mix, a long list of other priorities: Free prekindergarten for all youngsters, expanded health care programs — including the launch of a $35 billion new hearing aid benefit for people with Medicare — and $555 billion to tackle climate change.
There’s also a one-year extension of a child care tax credit that was put in place during the COVID-19 rescue and new child care subsidies. An additional $100 billion to bolster the immigration and border processing system could boost the overall package to $1.85 trillion if it clears Senate rules.
Progressives achieved one key priority — Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders’ proposal to provide hearing aid benefits for people on Medicare. However, his ideas to also include dental and vision care were left out.
Other expanded health care programs build on the Affordable Care Act by funding subsidies to help people buy insurance policies and coverage in states that declined the Obamacare program.
Overall, the new package also sets up political battles in future years. The child care tax credit expires alongside next year’s midterm elections, while much of the health care funding will expire in 2025, ensuring a campaign issue ahead of the next presidential election.
The House needs to vote
With support for even the narrowed package still an issue, Biden said as he left the Capitol, “I think we’re going to be in good shape.”
At least one pivotal holdout, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., struck a similar tone: “I look forward to getting this done.”
However, another holdout, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was less committal: “This is all in the hands of the House right now.”
The two Democrats have almost single-handedly reduced the size and scope of their party’s big vision.
Taking form after months of negotiations, Biden’s emerging bill would still be among the most sweeping of its kind in a generation, modeled on New Deal and Great Society programs. The White House calls it the largest-ever investment in climate change and the biggest improvement to the nation’s healthcare system in more than a decade.
But the framework is not yet the full legislative text, which lawmakers and aides cautioned has not yet been agreed to by the lawmakers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Biden asked the House to vote today. Pending was the related $1 trillion infrastructure bill that already cleared the Senate but became tangled in deliberations over the broader bill.
Progressives have been withholding their support for roads-and-bridges bill as leverage until they have a commitment on an agreement for the broader Biden package they prefer. That $1 trillion bill faces a Sunday deadline, when routine transportation funds risk expiring.
To push his big package to completion in the divided Senate, Biden needs all Democrats’ support, with no votes to spare. The House is also split with just a few vote margin.
Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the package. Despite a series of deadlines, Democrats have been unable to close the deal among themselves.