Biden offers huge budget, says Dems ‘will do a lot’

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden made a quick foray into the Capitol on Wednesday seeking support for his multibillion-dollar infrastructure, health care and other program, a historic potential achievement which would require the almost unanimous support of grumpy Democrats.

His visit came a day after Democratic Senate leaders closed weeks of negotiations by agreeing to spend $ 3.5 trillion over the next decade on initiatives focused on climate change, education, expansion health insurance and more. This comes in addition to a separate $ 1,000 billion bipartisan compromise on roads, water systems and other infrastructure projects that senators on both sides are negotiating, with backing from Biden.

The president spent just under an hour at a closed-door lunch with Democratic senators in the building where he served as a senator from Delaware for 36 years and where his party barely controls the House and Senate. Participants said Biden paced the room with a microphone to answer questions and received several standing ovations.

“It’s great to be home,” Biden told reporters after his first Capitol business meeting with lawmakers since becoming president. “It’s great to be with my colleagues, and I think we’re going to do a lot of things.”

The Democrats’ agreement to their $ 3.5 trillion overall figure was a major milestone for a party whose rival moderate and progressive factions have conflicting visions of the value and daring of the final package. But many of them say supporting low-income and middle-class families, and raising taxes for the rich and big business to help them pay, would promote long-term economic growth and pay political dividends in elections. next year for congressional control.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said the president urged them to consider whether their plan would help residents of Biden’s blue-collar hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. “His point was that we have to think about the people who have given up on democracy,” Murphy said.

The Democrats’ agreement on a turnover, while important, is just a first step that leaves the more difficult decisions for later. They must translate their plan into legislation with specific spending and revenue figures, then line up the votes needed to enact it, a process likely to continue throughout the fall.

With unanimous Republican opposition likely, Democrats would need the support of all of their Senate lawmakers 50-50 and could not lose more than three votes in the House.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the budget committee, disparaged the emerging plan as an unnecessary liberal wishlist that would fuel inflation and raise taxes.

“Count on me for real infrastructure. Count me on a hell tax and spending plan, ”he said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republicans just want to help the rich. “They don’t want their taxes to go up. They don’t want the government to help people, ”he said.

To meet their legislative goal, Democrats want to approve a budget resolution ahead of the August Congressional recess that would allow them to push forward a sprawling spending bill that actually funds their priorities through the Senate through a majority vote. simple. Without this protection, Republicans could kill the follow-on spending measure with an obstruction that would require an insurmountable 60 votes to overcome. The budget resolution itself cannot be obfuscated.

Democrats have said little about a challenge they will face. The measures the Democrats are considering total slightly less than the roughly $ 4.5 trillion in new spending Biden wants on infrastructure, family services, climate change and other programs. To accommodate their lower figure, lawmakers will have to reduce or eliminate some of its proposals.

“I think we are in good shape. There may be slight adjustments in payments, “which means increased income, Biden told governors and mayors visiting the White House. The proposed tax increases stand out as one of the most politically sensitive parts of the plan, especially for moderate Democrats facing competitive re-elections.

In an unsurprising harbinger of potential problems, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, perhaps the most conservative Democrat in his chamber, signaled he would oppose proposals to cut fossil fuels, a vital part of his state’s economy. His demands to cut other spending forced Democrats to abandon a long-standing progressive goal, a minimum wage hike, from pandemic relief legislation earlier this year.

Manchin said of cutting back on fossil fuels, which are major contributors to global warming, “It won’t happen, it can’t happen and it doesn’t matter but makes the world worse.” He said Democrats could carry out their spending plans “if they understand that fossils are going to play a role.”

Key support for the comprehensive plan came from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., A self-proclaimed democratic socialist and a leader of the progressive wing of the Democrats. He has repeatedly called the deal historic and said on Wednesday that while he wanted more spending – he had previously requested $ 6 trillion – the reality is that all 50 Democratic senators are needed to win. .

“I think it’s very, very important,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Said the Senate plan would meet her chamber’s democratic priorities for climate, health care and family services and make “unique historic advancements for families across the country ”. Yet in a letter to her colleagues, she appeared to leave the door open to seek more, stating, “We will fight to make our priorities law. “

Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters that while her group’s support is not guaranteed, “We see this as a very big positive step forward.”

Details of the package have started to emerge, although all of them are just proposals awaiting final decisions later.

A senior Democratic official said the party will seek to extend tax credits for children, daycares and some low-income people, money for environmentally friendly energy technologies and a federal standard to encourage the switch to clean energy. The plan would fund preschool for toddlers, student aid, paid family leave, food and housing programs and a path to citizenship for potentially several million immigrants. illegally in the United States, said the aide, who requested anonymity to describe the Democrats’ plans.

A top progressive priority is also included: an expansion of Medicare, the health insurance program for elderly Americans, to include vision, dental and hearing coverage. Sanders suggested there may also be an effort to lower the age of eligibility for this program to 60.

It would be expensive, but the senior aide said Democrats also envision savings by letting the government negotiate prescription drug costs. The aide said there would also be tax increases for people earning less than $ 400,000 a year, in small businesses and on family farms.

Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., A moderate leader, said the entire measure would be paid for with new income. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Said in an interview that he was working on proposals to “ensure that the super-rich corporations and mega-corporations pay their fair share. “taxes and for additional funding for the IRS to crack down on mocking taxes.”


Associated Press editors Kevin Freking, Mary Clare Jalonick, and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

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