WASHINGTON , -- Democrats in Congress appear to be on the verge securing President Joe Biden’s domestic policy package , now worth $1.85 trillion and growing . This would be a remarkable political achievement -- if they are able to push it through.
The House was ready to vote on Thursday night, and White House officials used the phone to secure support for President Obama's signature proposal. The House passing the large bill would mark a significant step. It would send to the Senate Biden's ambitious effort to expand child care and health care and provide the nation's largest investment in combating climate change.
Alongside the slimmer roads-bridges-and-broadband package, it adds up to Biden's answer to his campaign promise to rebuild the country from the COVID-19 crisis and confront a changing economy.
They're still not there.
Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, was hard at work Thursday night and kept the House open late to secure the votes. This party has been there before. Another politically chaotic day, like many others before it, is being blamed for the Democrats’ poor showing in the elections this week. Party leaders on Capitol Hill declared that it was time for Congress's implementation of Biden's agenda.
Pelosi insists that both bills will be passed during a press conference at midday.
Now, her strategy seems to be to pass the strongest bill in her chamber and then leave the Senate to amend or remove any portions it doesn't like.
The 2,135-page bill, half the size of Biden’s original $3.5 trillion package, has won over most progressive Democratic lawmakers. However, the more conservative and centrist Democrats in the chamber continued to raise objections.
Overall, the package is more comprehensive than any other in decades. Biden's bill is vehemently opposed by Republicans. It's called the "Build back Better Act", after President Trump's 2020 campaign slogan.
The large package would offer assistance to large numbers of Americans in paying for their health care, caring for their elderly parents and raising children.
Lower prescription drug prices would mean that insulin would cost $35 per dose. Medicare would also be able to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies, which is a long-desired Democratic priority.
Medicare would offer an older Americans a hearing aid benefit, and Medicare Part D members would see their prescription drug costs cap at $2,000.
This package would offer $555 billion in tax incentives to encourage cleaner energy, and electric vehicles. It is the largest national commitment to combating climate change.
The package's costs would be partially covered by higher taxes for wealthy Americans who earn more than $400,000 per year. A 5% surtax would also be added to those making more than $10 million annually. To stop large corporations from taking so many deductions, they are now required to pay a 15% minimum tax.
Karine Jean-Pierre, principal deputy press secretary, stated that the White House had made it clear that the president wanted to move this forward.
As night fell, Democratic leaders tried to resolve a number of issues. They had to balance the promises of Biden's vision with the realities in their home-district politics.
Biden is short of votes in the narrowly divided House, and he will not have any when the bill finally arrives in the equally-split 50-50 Senate.
Five Democratic centrist lawmakers demand a complete budgetary assessment before voting. Others are from more Republican-leaning areas and object to a new state tax deduction that favors New York, California, and other high-tax countries. Another group is calling for changes in the provisions relating to immigration.
Both the price tag overall and the revenue required to pay it have increased in recent days. According to a summary obtained from The Associated Press, Thursday's White House assessment said that revenue from taxes on corporations and wealthy as well as other changes is expected to bring in $2.1 trillion over ten years. This is an increase from the $1.9 trillion previously estimated.
Pelosi mentioned a similar assessment by the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation on Thursday and she reiterated Biden’s repeated comment that the entire package will be fully funded.
Another model, however, from the Wharton School of Pennsylvania suggests that revenue is not sufficient to cover the cost. This raises new doubts among Democratic legislators.
The Democrats in the House are still eager to complete this week. They want to fulfill the president's agenda, and as some lawmakers leave for a summit on global climate change in Scotland, they show that the U.S. takes the environment seriously.
Democrats have been trying to find a way to work with Sens. Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Silena from Arizona were the ones who cut back on Biden's bill, but they fought for the smaller infrastructure package that was stalled during deliberations.
Manchin has criticised the new family- and medical leave program. It is expected to offer four weeks of paid time off for childbirth, recovery from major illnesses, or caring for family members. This is less than the 12-week program originally envisioned.
A recently added immigration provision, which would have created a program for approximately 7 million illegal immigrants in the country, will likely be removed by senators. This program would allow them to apply for U.S. permits for work and travel for five years. Under the special budget rules that are being used to process this package, it's not clear that the Senate parliamentarian would approve of the addition.
Another issue is that Democrats still disagree over a plan to partially eliminate the $10,000 limit on local and state tax deductions. This plan, which was included in the Trump-era 2017 tax plan, particularly affects high-tax states.
Progressives wanted to stop the super-wealthy benefiting from the repeal of the SALT deduction cap, even though it is a priority for many Northeastern state legislators. The plan would see the $10,000 deduction limit being raised to $72,500 over 10 years starting in 2021.