Pelosi, Moderates Close to Deal for Biden’s Economic Agenda
(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and moderate Democrats are closing in on an agreement for moving forward with President Joe Biden’s $4.1 trillion economic plan after a pressure campaign that included calls to House members by the president and his senior staff, according to lawmakers and officials.
The emerging deal to end a standoff that threatened to sink the party’s domestic agenda would allow adoption of the Senate’s $3.5 trillion tax and spending blueprint Tuesday afternoon and set up a final vote on a separate $550 billion infrastructure bill in late September. However negotiations were continuing and no final agreement has been announced.
Pelosi told Democrats in a private meeting Tuesday morning that leaders were close to a compromise with the group of moderates who were threatening to hold up the budget framework if the House didn’t vote this week on the infrastructure bill, according to a person in the room.
House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern said a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure legislation would be Sept. 27. The deadline was intended to appease the group of 10 centrists who had rebelled against Pelosi’s schedule.
McGovern’s committee was set to meet again Tuesday to make the Sept. 27 more certain. With that final tweak and an additional verbal commitment from Pelosi that the House wouldn’t vote on a reconcilation bill lacking sufficient Senate support, at least two of the 10 moderates -- Representatives Henry Cuellar of Texas and Jim Costa of California -- said they support the plan.
“These negotiations are never easy,” McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, said. “It is my hope that my colleagues who recognize the very simple choice to advance the president’s agenda or obstruct it.”
Biden and his top aides made calls to the group of moderates and other House Democrats to again emphasize White House support for Pelosi’s strategy and the importance of the budget resolution, the infrastructure bill and the voting rights legislation, according to officials.
The moderate lawmakers, led by New Jersey Representative Josh Gottheimer, had said they wanted to vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill before starting the budget process aimed at reshaping social and environmental programs with only Democratic votes. Progressive Democrats had demanded the opposite -- they wanted to hold off on a final infrastructure vote until the budget package, which includes key health care and tax priorities, is completed.
The anticipated vote Tuesday would adopt the $3.5 trillion budget resolution as part of a rule governing debate on the infrastructure bill and voting rights legislation.
The infrastructure vote deadline could create some political pressure to pass it towards the end of September before the $3.5 trillion tax and spending bill. Progressives have demanded that the larger bill be enacted first, but House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth acknowledged that getting the sprawling $3.5 trillion measure enacted before Sept. 27 will be very difficult.
The dissent among Democrats demonstrates the difficult negotiations Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer face as they try to steer a multi-trillion-dollar legislative package through Congress in the coming weeks. The budget resolution sets a Sept. 15 deadline for the congressional committees responsible for drafting the tax and spending legislation, a tight timeframe with lawmakers scheduled to be away from Washington until the middle of the month.
Some moderate Democrats in both chambers have balked at the $3.5 trillion price tag of the spending package, and others have expressed concerns about some of the tax hikes for corporations and high-income individuals that are part of the plan.
Yarmuth said that tax increases are politically the hardest part of the equation, including demands by Democrats from high-tax states to raise or eliminate the cap on deductions for state and local taxes.
“Doing something about that in this package is politically challenging,” he said. “Some people want to deal with carried interest, others don’t, that’s politically challenging. Raising the capital gains rate even for wealthy people to essentially 43% is politically challenging.”
Congress also faces a collision of crucial deadlines in September. Lawmakers will have to pass a stopgap funding bill to avoid an Oct. 1 government shutdown, and they’ll have to raise the nation’s debt ceiling around the same time as well to avoid a default on federal payment obligations.
House leaders still do not have a plan for how and when to raise the debt ceiling, Yarmuth said. The procedural motion to be voted on Tuesday blocks automatic House passage of a debt ceiling increase that otherwise would have been triggered by the adoption of the budget resolution under standing House rules.
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