Biden’s big bill on the verge of House votes, but the fights remain | National policy

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By LISA MASCARO and ALAN FRAM Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – House Democrats appear to be on their way to securing President Joe Biden’s growing $ 1.85 trillion domestic policy package, along with a $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill. dollars in what would be a dramatic political achievement – if they can get it through.

The House canceled votes Thursday night but will be back early Friday, and White House officials have been working the phones to lock down support for the president’s signature proposal. The House’s passage of the grand bill would be a crucial step, sending Biden’s ambitious effort to expand health care, child care, and other social services for countless Americans to the Senate and provide the country’s biggest investment to date to fight climate change.

Along with the thinner package of roads, bridges and broadband, this comes in addition to Biden’s response to his campaign pledge to rebuild the country from the COVID-19 crisis and cope with a shattering economy. mutation.

But they are not there yet.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi worked hard late into the night on Capitol Hill Thursday and kept the House late to consolidate the votes. The party has been here before, another politically messy day like many others before who are blamed for the Democrats’ poor performance in this week’s election. On and off Capitol Hill, party leaders have said it is time for Congress to implement Biden’s agenda.

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“We will pass both bills,” Pelosi insisted during a midday press briefing.

His strategy now appears to be focused on passing the strongest bill possible in his chamber, and then letting the Senate adjust or remove the portions that its members will not agree to. The House Rules Committee was scheduled to meet Thursday evening to prepare the bill for tiered votes.

Half the size of Biden’s original $ 3.5 trillion package, the now sprawling 2,135-page bill has won over most progressive Democratic lawmakers, even though it’s smaller than they wanted. But the more centrist and fiscally conservative Democrats in the House continued to raise objections.

Overall, the package has remained more ambitious than any other for decades. Republicans are totally opposed to Biden’s bill, called the “Build Back Better Act” after the slogan of the 2020 presidential campaign.

The big package would provide large numbers of Americans with help paying for health care, raising children and caring for the elderly in their homes.

Prescription drug costs would be lower, limiting the price of insulin to $ 35 per dose, and Medicare would for the first time be able to negotiate with drug companies the prices of certain other drugs, a since-sought Democratic priority. long time.

Medicare would offer a new benefit for hearing aids to older Americans, and those on Medicare Part D would see their prescription drug costs capped at $ 2,000.

The package would provide some $ 555 billion in tax breaks encouraging cleaner energy and electric vehicles, the country’s biggest commitment to tackling climate change.

With a flurry of late adjustments, Democrats have added key provisions in recent days – adding a new paid family leave program, work permits for immigrants, and changes to state and local tax deductions.

Much of the cost of the package would be covered by higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans, those earning more than $ 400,000 a year, and a 5% surtax would be added on those earning more than $ 10 million. per year. Large companies would face a new minimum tax of 15% in an attempt to prevent large companies from claiming so many deductions that they end up paying no tax.

From the White House, “the president was very clear, he wants to make things happen”, declared the principal press assistant Karine Jean-Pierre.

As night fell, Democratic leaders struggled to resolve a catalog of remaining issues as lawmakers balanced Biden’s global vision promise with the political realities of their home district.

Biden has little voice to spare in the tightly divided House, and none when the bill finally arrives for consideration in the equally divided 50-50 Senate.

Five centrist Democratic lawmakers want a full budget assessment before they vote. Others from more Republican areas oppose a new state and local tax deduction that favors New York, California and other high-tax states. Another group wants changes to the immigration provisions.

In recent days, the overall price and the income to be paid have increased. A new White House assessment Thursday said revenues from corporate and wealth taxes and other changes are expected to bring in $ 2.1 trillion over 10 years, according to a summary obtained by The Associated Press. This is up from what had been $ 1.9 trillion in previous estimates.

Pelosi noted a similar assessment Thursday by the bipartisan joint committee on taxation, and she echoed Biden’s frequent comment that the overall package will be fully paid for.

But another model from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania suggested a shortfall to cover costs, raising further doubts among some of the Democratic lawmakers.

Still, House Democrats are eager to wrap up this week, keen to implement the President’s agenda and, as some lawmakers prepare to leave for a global climate change summit in Scotland, show the United States take the environmental issue seriously.

Democrats have struggled to resolve their differences, especially with the Sens refractory. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who forced cuts to Biden’s bill but defended the thinner infrastructure package that stalled amid deliberations.

Manchin rejected the new family and medical leave program, which should provide four weeks of paid leave after childbirth, to recover from serious illness or to care for family members, less than the 12 weeks once considered.

Senators are also likely to remove a just-added immigration provision that would create a new program for some 7 million immigrants who are in the country without legal status, allowing them to apply for permits to work and travel. in the United States for five years. It is not clear whether the addition would be accepted by the Senate parliamentarian under the special budgetary rules used to process the package.

On another open issue, Democrats are still discussing a plan to partially remove the $ 10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions that particularly hits high-tax states and was enacted as part of the plan. 2017 fiscal year of the Trump era.

While repealing the SALT deduction cap is a priority for many lawmakers in northeastern states, progressives wanted to prevent the super-rich from benefiting from it. Under the plan, the $ 10,000 deduction limit would be increased to $ 72,500 for 10 years, starting in tax year 2021.

Associated Press editors Farnoush Amiri, Kevin Freking, Aamer Madhani, and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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