Democrats plow ‘full speed ahead’ on sweeping Biden budget, despite tensions

WASHINGTON – Two top Democrats say they are pushing to expand President Joe Biden’s far-reaching safety net, as House committees circulate legislative text with hearings scheduled on Thursday to begin work on key parts of the bill.

“We’re moving at full speed ahead,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters on Wednesday’s call.

The New York Democrat dismissed calls by Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., for a “strategic pause” in the drafting of the bill, as he expressed concerns about abuse deflation and debt during a recent press conference for the Wall. Street Magazine.

Schumer is navigating the demands of Manchin, as well as Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to reduce the price the Democrats set at the $3.5 trillion maximum in the budget resolution.

“There are some people in my caucus who believe that $3.5 trillion is too much; There were some people in my caucus who believed it was too little,” Schumer said. “We will work very hard to get unity, because without unity we won’t achieve anything.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that the House is moving forward at $3.5 trillion.

But she left the door open to the possibility of a lower final price before the bill becomes law, promising “we’ll get the job done” with “a great bill” honoring her vision. Biden.

“We’re going to have our negotiations,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said, when asked by NBC News if the House could pass a bill for a lower amount. “I don’t know what the number will be. We are ticking at 3.5 [trillion]. … We will pay more than half, maybe all the law. “

Schumer and Pelosi’s comments point to a complicated balancing act, facing multiple comments from centrist lawmakers skeptical of the price tag towards progressives who believe 3.5 trillion dollars should be the bare minimum. Democratic leaders are also launching a positive timeline by looking to get the bill ready by September 27 — the self-imposed deadline the House of Representatives has set to vote on the infrastructure bill. separate – to ensure progress will support the bill later.

They are betting that Manchin can eventually win on the substance of the pack. Lawmakers and committees are leaving options open in case the price tag needs to be cut: For example, they have privately discussed setting up some provisions to expire earlier.

Manchin was a bit vague in his requirements. He did not specify what price tags he would support or what provisions of the emerging bill he would like to cut. His office had no comment when asked those questions on Wednesday.

In June, he said on ABC’s “This Week” that he wanted to “make sure we pay for” the bill.

A source close to Manchin said he is a big advocate of targeting benefits on the basis of income and limiting them so that money goes to those who need it most – principles he believes are crucial. importance to the Democratic proposals for community college and home-based care-based care provisions for the elderly and disabled.

The source said Manchin also had issues with climate change proposals in the law.

As chairman of the Senate Energy and Resources Committee, Manchin has a great deal of influence on climate provisions. His committee was instructed to write $198 billion legislation for a clean electricity payment program, refund consumers for the weather, and electrify homes, creating product financing. domestic clean energy production and automotive supply chain technologies and climate research.

“He’s not opposed to the overall bill,” the source said. “He will shape the bill to what he feels is closer to the need. People shouldn’t read it more than that. “

Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said if the safety net package doesn’t pass, the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure package – which Manchin co-wrote – will also fail.

He told reporters that the $3.5 trillion level was too low.

“In my mind, this bill, $3.5 trillion, has been the result of a big, big compromise,” Sanders said. “And at the very least, this bill should contain $3.5 trillion.”

Pelosi said cutting costs would require making tough policy choices.

“We have to talk about: What does it need? Where will you cut? ” she asked. “Children care? Paid family medical leave? Universal pre-K? Health care at home?”

On Thursday, the House committees on ways and means, education and labor will hold hearings on key sections of the bill they enacted this week. That includes 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers; expand Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing benefits; universalization of pre-K for children 3 and 4 years old; and two-year tuition-free community college.

Republicans united against the effort, leaving Democrats to pass the bill alone with a narrow majority. Packages can bypass a Senate filter.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday that he hopes Manchin and Sinema “will follow in their footsteps” against some of the tax hikes Democrats are aiming to finance. package support. “It involves – in the Senate – for two,” he said.

“One of you can kill the entire bill. I don’t expect that to happen,” he said. “One of you can make significant changes – it can happen. Or either of you can basically make a few cosmetic changes and throw away the towel. “

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