October 21, 2021 3:08 pm
Panel debates Dems’ $3.5T bill, crunch time for Biden agenda

Panel debates Dems’ $3.5T bill, crunch time for Biden agenda

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats pushed a $3.5 trillion, 10-year bill strengthening social safety net and climate programs through the House Budget Committee on Saturday, but one Democrat voted “no,” illustrating the challenges party leaders face in winning the near unanimity they’ll need to push the sprawling package through Congress.

The Democratic-dominated panel, meeting virtually, approved the measure on a near party-line vote, 20-17. The passage marked a minor but necessary check of a procedure box for Democrats, by moving it closer to full House debate. Under budget rules, the committee wasn’t allowed to significantly amend the 2,465-page measure, the product of 13 other House committees.

More important work has been taking place in an opaque process of unannounced phone calls and meetings, as well as other bargaining sessions between party leaders and rank and file lawmakers. President Joe Biden , House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have been leading a behind-the scenes hunt for compromises that will resolve internal divisions. They hope to get the bill approved soon.

Pelosi informed fellow Democrats that they must pass the social-environment package this week. Also, a separate bill to prevent a government shutdown on Friday . Pelosi’s letter to her colleagues highlighted the mountain of work Congress’ Democratic majority has to do in the coming days. It seemed to be an attempt to create urgency and resolve long-standing disputes fast.

” “The next few days are going to be intense,” she wrote.

Moderate Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., joined all 16 Republicans on the Budget committee in opposing the legislation. One of his objections was one that many Democrats find troubling: the reluctance he had to support a bill that contained provisions that would be later dropped by Congress.

Many Democrats don’t want their political vulnerability to be exposed by supporting language that is controversial back home only to have it rejected by the Senate. Pelosi’s efforts to get a House vote on this week’s social and environment bills could be hampered by her preference to vote only on those that are already in the House-Senate.

Peters is one of three Democrats that voted against the plan to lower prescription drug costs by letting Medicare negotiate.

Party leaders tried for weeks to settle differences among Democrats about the final price tag of the package, which appears to be shrinking. There are also disagreements over which initiatives should go. These include expanded Medicare, tax cuts for children, and higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations ..

Democrats’ thin majority in the House and Senate means compromise is required. The measure that the Budget panel approved on Saturday will not reach the House floor until it has been modified to reflect any House-Senate agreements. Additional revisions are possible.

The overall bill is the core of Biden’s domestic goals. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), chairman of the Budget Panel, stated that the legislation was based on “decades” of “disinvestment” in areas such as health care, education and the environment.

” Millions of Americans’ futures and the well-being of their families are at risk. We cannot afford to continue to ignore and be inactive. Yarmuth stated that now is the time to act.

Republicans say the proposal is unneeded, unaffordable amid accumulated federal debt exceeding $28 trillion and reflects Democrats’ drive to insert government into people’s lives. They said that the tax increases will hurt jobs and include credit for electric vehicle purchases, which are often made by people who have comfortable incomes.

“This bill will be a disaster for working class families,” stated Rep. Jason Smith, Missouri’s top Republican. “It’s an enormous giveaway to the wealthy, it is a laundry list… of agenda items pulled straight out of Bernie Sanders socialist playbook. The unusual weekend session was held as top Democrats intensify efforts to end bitter disputes between the party’s progressive and centrist wings that threaten to undermine Biden’s agenda.

Biden conceded Friday that talks among Democrats were at a “stalemate,” though Pelosi and Schumer have been more positive in an apparent effort to build momentum and soothe differences. The possibility of his party’s collapse would be a warning sign for the upcoming election year in which both Senate and House control will be at stake.

To win moderate support for an earlier budget plan, Pelosi promised that the House would begin consideration Monday of another pillar in Biden’s domestic plans. It is a $1 trillion collection of roads and other infrastructure projects. Pelosi reiterated this week that the debate on infrastructure would start Monday.

However, many moderates who view the infrastructure bill as their top priority also want to reduce the $3.5 trillion package for social and environmental protection and to reshape or trim some programs. These include Sens. They include Sens. Their opposition appears to be sufficient to stop it. Pelosi has not yet stated when the final vote on the infrastructure bill will take place.

With one party trying to undermine the other’s most important goal , a political disaster for Democrats , top Democrats are making use of this moment to speed up talks on massive climate and social legislation. To win in narrowly divided Congress, the party cannot lose any votes in the Senate or the House.