President Joe Biden succeeded in bringing his party together to unilaterally pass the US bailout, their $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, earlier this year.
Now he must reconcile their differences over an even more ambitious and controversial domestic spending measure, the Build Back Better Act, which aims to address health care, child care, climate change, education, housing. and more.
As Democrats grapple with divisions in both the House and Senate, and Republicans plot how to scuttle the massive proposal with separate debt limit demands, Biden’s agenda faces a do or die moment on Capitol Hill.
“We’re on schedule, that’s all I’ll say. And everyone is calm and everyone is fine and our job is almost done, ”optimistic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Told reporters on Wednesday after meeting with Biden and the chief of majority in the Senate Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) in the White House. .
Schumer said they had made “good progress” and that negotiations on the scope of the bill and the Democratic agenda “were advancing”.
Biden held separate meetings Wednesday with a group of moderate Democrats, as well as a group of progressives. The two ideological wings of the party have openly argued over the size of the Build Back Better bill and its included policies.
The cost of the bill is technically limited to a maximum of $ 3.5 trillion. However, most of this will be offset by income from tax hikes on the rich and corporate.
The party is also at war over the legislative sequencing of the Build Back Better program. The moderates are demanding that the House vote next week on the bipartisan $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that the Senate passed earlier this year. This legislation aims to overhaul the country’s “hard” infrastructure, only by financing the construction of new roads, bridges and waterways.
But House progressives are threatening to vote against the bipartisan bill until the Senate passes the Build Back Better measure, which includes many Liberal priorities such as additional child tax credit payments and funding. to fight against climate change.
“I know there are myself and 50 members who would vote no if we can’t complete the entire Biden program,” House Progressive Caucus representative Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) Warned on Wednesday in a statement. interview with CNN.
A group of 11 progressives in the Senate applauded their House counterparts, calling on Democratic leaders to postpone voting on the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate is finished.
“We voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill with a clear commitment that the two elements of the package would move together on a dual track. Dropping the $ 3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act and passing the infrastructure bill first would be a violation of this agreement, ”said the group of senators, led by Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders ( I-Vt.), In a press release.
The intra-party confrontation once again tests Biden’s reputation as a master negotiator. Both wings of his party issued competing ultimatums as legislation progressed through Congress. If neither side gives, Biden will have no chance of signing anything, not the bill the progressives want, nor the one the moderates want. Democrats would be forced to face next year’s midterm elections with declining poll numbers and little to show for their efforts.
Both sides agree that if anyone can bring the party to the finish line, it’s Biden. The longtime former senator united his party in the 2020 presidential election and made Donald Trump a single-term president. He went on to enact the US bailout, which contained some of the greatest progressive pieces of legislation in a generation.
Yet Democrats are much more divided over their $ 3.5 trillion budget than they were earlier this year when they passed their coronavirus relief bill. This legislation was more urgent, and Democrats had an easier time selling it to the public. The Build Back Better bill hits much more federal politics and is a bigger target for Republicans and lobbyist armies in Washington looking to smash it or outright defeat it in Congress.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Urged Biden to “keep everyone on track” when meeting with Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday.
“We are all Democrats. We are all trying to come to the same end point. We just have to make sure that no one is caught in the switches here or left behind, ”she said.
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