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Biden announces ‘historic’ deal – but has yet to win votes

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he and Congress Democrats have reached a “historic” framework for his broad domestic policy agenda. But he still has to lock in the votes of his key colleagues on what is now a greatly reduced bill.

Eager to have a deal in hand before his late afternoon departure for world summits, Biden pleaded his case privately on Capitol Hill to House Democrats and publicly in a speech at the White House. He is now pushing for a still strong package – $ 1.75 trillion in social services and climate change programs – which the White House says can be passed by the Senate at 50-50.

The rapid developments bring Democrats closer to a hotly contested deal, but battles remain as they push to complete the final draft in the days and weeks to come.

“Let’s do this,” Biden urged.

“It will fundamentally change the lives of millions of people for the better,” he said of the package, which he strongly wanted ahead of the summits. show the world that American democracy still works.

With a bipartisan infrastructure bill of nearly $ 1,000 billion, Biden asserted that the infusion of federal investments would be a national achievement modeled on those of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.

“I need your votes,” Biden told lawmakers on Capitol Hill, according to a person who requested anonymity to discuss the private remarks.

But the final votes won’t be called for some time. The revised package lost some main priorities, frustrating many lawmakers as the president’s ambitions give way to the political realities of the tightly divided Congress.

Paid family leave and efforts to reduce the price of prescription drugs are now completely gone, sparking outrage from some lawmakers and advocates.

Also in the mix is ​​a long list of other priorities: free preschool for all young people, expanded health care programs – including the launch of a new $ 35 billion hearing benefit for those on insurance. – disease – and $ 555 billion to fight climate change.

There is also a one-year extension to the child care tax credit that was put in place during the COVID-19 rescue and new child care subsidies. An additional $ 100 billion to strengthen the immigration and border processing system could bring the overall amount to $ 1.85 trillion if it erases Senate rules.

One of the Democratic backbones, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, said: “I can’t wait to do this.”

However, another, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, was less committed: “Everything is in the hands of the House right now. “

The two Democrats have almost single-handedly reduced the size and scope of their party’s grand vision and are essential in sealing the deal.

Republicans remain overwhelmingly opposed, forcing Biden to lean on the narrow majority of Democrats in Congress, voiceless in the Senate and little in the House.

Taking shape after months of negotiations, Biden’s emerging bill would still be one of the most radical of its kind in a generation, modeled on the New Deal and Great Society agendas. The White House calls it the largest investment ever in climate change and the biggest improvement in the country’s healthcare system in more than a decade.

During his meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Biden made it clear how important it is to show progress as he heads to the summits.

“We are at an inflection point,” he said. “The rest of the world is wondering if we can do it. “

With a US election on the horizon, he said it was “no exaggeration to say that the majorities in the House and Senate and my presidency will be determined by what happens next week.”

At one point, Biden “demanded an enthusiastic, enthusiastic vote on his plan,” said Representative Richard Neal, D-Mass.

Twice during the hour-long meeting, Democratic lawmakers stood up and began shouting, “Vote, vote, vote,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia.

Biden’s proposal would be funded by imposing a new 5% surtax on income over $ 10 million a year and instituting a new 15% minimum corporate tax, in line with his plan not to impose new taxes to those who earn less than $ 400,000 per year. noted. A special “billionaire tax” was not included.

Revenue to help pay for the package would also come from the cancellation of some of the Trump administration’s tax cuts in 2017, as well as an enhanced enforcement of tax evaders by the IRS. Biden has pledged to cover the full cost of the plan, making sure it doesn’t pile up on the debt burden.

With the framework converted into a 1,600-page legislative text for review, lawmakers and lawmakers have warned that it has yet to be accepted.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., The progressive leader, said her caucus approved the framework, even as progressive lawmakers scrambled to delay further action. “We want to see the actual text because we don’t want confusion and misunderstandings,” she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Biden asked the House to vote on the $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill, which has already cleared the Senate but got tangled up in deliberations on the larger bill. But Jayapal said she had not heard an urgent demand from him, prompting progressives to halt Thursday’s hoped-for vote.

“When the president gets off that plane, we want him to get a vote of confidence from this Congress,” Pelosi told lawmakers, the person said at the private meeting.

But no vote was planned. Progressives have withheld their support for the roads and bridges bill as leverage until they pledge that Manchin, Sinema and other senators are ready to vote on Biden’s biggest package.

“Hell no,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. Said of passing the smaller infrastructure bill.

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., Shared her own story of making “pennies” with low-paying work, fighting to pay for child care, and making sure voters have better.

“We need both bills to ride together. And we don’t have that right now, ”said Bush. “I feel a little bamboozled because that was not what I expected to come today.”

Instead, Congress approved an extension until Dec. 3 of Sunday’s deadline for routine transportation funds that were at risk of expiring without the infrastructure bill.

The two recalcitrant Democratic senators now hold enormous power, essentially deciding whether Biden will be able to deliver on the Democrats’ key campaign promises.

Sinema helped push his party back from his pledge to reverse Republicans’ tax cuts in 2017. And Manchin’s resistance has forced serious cuts in a clean energy plan, the elimination of paid family leave and l Imposition of work requirements for parents receiving the new childcare subsidies.

At the same time, progressives have achieved a key priority – Vermont independent Bernie Sanders’ proposal to provide hearing aid benefits to people on Medicare. However, his ideas to also include dental and vision care were left out.

Other expanded health care programs are building on the Affordable Care Act by funding grants to help people purchase insurance policies and coverage in states that have turned down the Obamacare program.

Overall, the new package also sets up political battles in the years to come. The enhanced child care tax credit expires alongside next year’s midterm elections, while a large chunk of healthcare funding will expire in 2025, securing a campaign stake before the next one presidential election.

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Associated Press editors Zeke Miller in Rome and Colleen Long, Kevin Freking, Alan Fram and Padmananda Rama in Washington contributed to this report.


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