• The San Juan Daily Star

Biden announces $1.85 trillion framework for climate and safety net plan

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) speaks to reporters while departing a meeting with progressive House Democrats at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. President Biden went to the Capitol on Thursday to announce a “framework” agreement for his social safety net and climate change plan.

By Jonathan Weisman, Jim Tankersley and Emily Cochrane

President Joe Biden pleaded with House Democrats on Thursday to embrace his framework for a $1.85 trillion economic and environmental bill, saying its fate would help determine that of his presidency and his party’s hold on Congress, and its success would restore the nation’s standing on the world stage.

The president, who delayed his departure for a trip to Europe to try to nail down an accord on his domestic agenda, used a morning meeting at the Capitol to attempt to rally House Democrats around the emerging deal.

“We have a framework that will get 50 votes in the United States Senate,” Biden told the group, according to a person familiar with his private remarks. “I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week.”

Later, in public remarks at the White House, Biden hailed the plan as “historic.”

“No one got everything they wanted, including me,” he said in the East Room before departing on a trip to Rome. “But that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus. And that’s what I ran on.”

Crucial details of the legislation remained in flux, even as the president pushed to convince liberal members that a final compromise was close enough to allow them to support a separate $1 trillion infrastructure bill that has already passed the Senate. House leaders were pressing Democrats to vote for the public works legislation later Thursday, in what amounted to a huge gamble for the president and his party that they would be able to pull together their fractious ranks without a final deal in hand.

“We badly need a vote on both of these measures,” Biden privately told them Thursday morning, according to the person.

Former President Barack Obama chimed in with a public statement calling the outline “a giant leap forward.”

But liberals were still unsatisfied with a plan that was clearly unfinished — and that omitted many of their cherished priorities.

“What I would say is you have the outline of a very significant piece of legislation — I want us to make it better,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Budget Committee chair.

At least one lawmaker involved in the talks had been told as of Thursday morning that two crucial holdouts, Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, had yet to commit to voting for it, according to a person briefed on the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In a statement, Sinema stopped substantially short of such a promise, although she sounded an upbeat note on the talks.

“After months of productive, good-faith negotiations with President Biden and the White House, we have made significant progress on the proposed budget reconciliation package,” she said.

Manchin did not commit to supporting it either, saying only, “It’s in the hands of the House.”

But one person close to both senators said they had privately indicated that they supported Biden’s framework.

At the Capitol, the president framed the success of his push as crucial at a time when “the rest of the world wonders whether we can function.”

The package is considerably more modest than the cradle-to-grave expansion of the safety net that the president initially envisioned, having been stripped of ambitious climate change programs and provisions to provide federal paid leave, a broad expansion of Medicare and two years of free community college.

But provisions to provide universal preschool for more than 6 million 3- and 4-year-olds and subsidies to limit the costs of child care to no more than 7% of income for most families would offer a significant boost to the middle class. And about $555 billion for programs to move Americans to electric vehicles and entice utilities away from natural gas and coal would be the largest federal investment in combating climate change.

Democratic leaders were keen to hand the president a victory before he arrived overseas for a week of summitry. The president planned to attend a climate summit Monday in Scotland, where he hoped to point to the deal as evidence of the U.S. commitment to tackling climate change.

Democrats also hoped the agreement would be enough to persuade the House’s most liberal members that Congress was on the verge of passing a truly progressive package — and that those liberals, in turn, would join more moderate and conservative Democrats to send the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill to Biden for his signature.

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