WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic leaders were hoping for House votes as soon as Tuesday on the two pillars of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, two Democrats said Saturday, as the party mounted its latest push to maneuver the long-delayed legislation through Congress.
It remained unclear, though, whether the ambitious timetable could be met.
Top Democrats would like a final House-Senate compromise on Biden’s now $1.75 trillion, 10-year social and environment plan to be written by Sunday, the Democrats said.
Talks among White House, House and Senate officials were being held over the weekend, said the Democrats, who described the plans on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record. The White House unveiled an outline of the $1.75 trillion measure on Thursday that won positive reviews from many rank-and-file lawmakers, pending talks over final details.
An accord could clear the way for congressional approval of that bill and a separate $1 trillion measure funding roads, rail and other infrastructure projects, the Democrats said.
For an agreement between the two chambers to be viable in the Senate, it would need the backing of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. House progressives long at odds over the party’s spending and tax priorities with the two centrists would need to be convinced they could trust them to back an accord.
Manchin and Sinema forced Biden to retreat from his earlier plan for a $3.5 trillion social and environment plan and to remove and scale back some initiatives. Democrats will need unanimous support in the 50-50 Senate to pass the legislation, which is opposed by all Republicans, and will be able to lose no more than three more Democratic votes in the House.
In addition, some Democrats are still seeking to include provisions requiring paid family leave, letting Medicare negotiate pharmaceutical prices to push down prescription drug costs and helping millions of immigrants remain in the U.S.
The Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian, who enforces that chamber’s strict rules, also might decide that some provisions in the social and environment bill violate procedures and should be removed. Elizabeth MacDonough has already ruled against including two earlier Democratic proposals assisting immigrants.
After months of disputes between progressives and moderates over the social and environment bill, party leaders had pressured lawmakers to resolve their disagreements to enhance Biden’s clout before he left Thursday for economic and climate talks in Europe.
Biden asked House Democrats in a Capitol meeting Thursday morning to support both bills, but their divisions remained and Congress left town until next week. Biden will be in Europe into next week, so any quick agreements in Congress could still give him a boost.
Also lying ahead is Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in Democratic-leaning Virginia. Polls show Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin might defeat Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor, and it is unclear how that might affect support in Congress for the social and environment package.
The $1.75 trillion measure would need to clear the Senate after passing the House.
Its initiatives include money for free preschool, tax credits to spur movement toward cleaner fuels and electrified vehicles, subsidies for child care and health coverage and more funding for housing and at-home care for the elderly. Most of its costs would be covered by higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations and bolstering the IRS’s budget for pursuing higher-income tax scofflaws.
The Senate approved the infrastructure measure in August on a bipartisan vote. House progressives have sidetracked that bill in an effort to ensure that moderates will back the larger social and environment bill.