Biden pushes new $1.75trln spending plan in last-minute Congress visit

Economic bill may lose paid family leave, Hoyer says

  
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) greets Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 22, 2021.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) greets Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 22, 2021.

Reuters/Tom Brenner

WASHINGTON- U.S. President Joe Biden made a last-minute trip to Congress on Thursday to push a new $1.75 trillion framework for economic and climate change spending, after weeks of squabbling between progressives and moderates in his party.

Biden, who is delaying a trip to Europe to secure an agreement on his domestic policy priorities, is confident he will win backing from both wings of the Democratic Party for the spending proposal.

"After months of tough and thoughtful negotiations, we have a framework that I believe can pass," Biden said on Twitter.

However, U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the member group would need to see any text of a spending bill before promising to vote on linked bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

"My understanding is that the framework is very general. So let's turn it into legislative text," she said, as she headed to the meeting with Biden in the U.S. Capitol.

The framework would be fully paid for by repealing certain tax rebates passed under former President Donald Trump, imposing a surcharge on corporate stock buybacks, and adding a surcharge on the earnings of the wealthiest Americans, the White House said.

The framework includes $555 billion in spending for climate, and six years of preschool, among other top agenda items, but does not include paid family leave or a tax on billionaires. 

The White House says the plan has the support of all 50 Democrats in the Senate and said it is confident this bill can also pass the House of Representatives.

Biden plans to deliver public remarks at 11:30 a.m. (1530 GMT) at the White House.

The president had hoped to reach an agreement before attending a G20 meeting in Rome, where a global minimum tax will be high on the agenda, and a climate conference in Glasgow, where Biden hopes to present a message that the United States is back in the fight against global warming. 

U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, who chairs the House of Representatives Democratic Conference, said he understood Biden would discuss a planned framework that appeared to have support from all Democratic U.S. senators, clearing a major hurdle.

The plan would encompass "a historic investment in job creation ... children and families ... protecting the planet ... and expanding access to healthcare," he told MSNBC.

Still, it remains unclear whether Biden has the votes needed to pass either the social spending into law or a companion bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

Progressives have vowed to block the latter measure until they see a social spending bill that invests sufficiently in healthcare, education and climate change mitigation, among other priorities. Some Republicans support the infrastructure measure but most lawmakers in that party oppose both bills.

CLIMATE SUMMIT

Even if a framework is adopted in coming days, as Democrats hope, Biden will likely arrive at the G20 leaders meeting and the U.N. Climate Change Conference without final legislation in hand even as the United States seeks to ask other countries to adopt similar initiatives. 

Democrats have a slight majority in the House of Representatives and only narrowly control the 50-50 split Senate, with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote, meaning legislation must win support across a wide swath of progressives and more moderate members of the party.

The White House on Wednesday said Biden had "flexibility" for his departure and has said he can continue to work with lawmakers on his agenda amid his trip, including from moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who opposed Biden's initial plans.

"Details matter. On climate, they're life+death. So to do my job, I need more than an IOU. Not too much to ask," U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive, said in a post on Twitter late on Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN plans for paid family leave have been dropped from the framework and that $555 billion would be included for clean energy.

Jeffries give no details on the framework but said he would support the deal given the urgent need for climate action even if the paid leave provision is dropped.

"If it turns out that the votes don't exist for it in the Senate, we will live to fight another day," he said.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Richard Cowan, Jarrett Renshaw, Andrea Shalal and Jeff Mason; writing by Susan Heavey and Jeff Mason; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Chizu Nomiyama, Heather Timmons, Andrew Cawthorne and Paul Simao) ((sheavey@thomsonreuters.com; +1-202-898-8300;))


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