Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats on Thursday “don’t embarrass” President Joe Biden by voting down a $1 trillion infrastructure bill ahead of Biden’s trip overseas, a warning that underscores the high-stakes of the moment for the divided party as the President’s agenda hangs in the balance.
House Democratic leaders are pushing for a vote on the infrastructure bill even as key progressives signal they plan to withhold their support, a dynamic that could force leadership to delay the vote for the second time in two months and deal a major blow to Biden on the world stage.
Biden appealed directly to House Democrats in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill Thursday morning, pitching them on a framework for a separate, larger climate and economic package.
Pelosi’s admonition not to “embarrass” the President came during the closed-door meeting. She also said that she would put the infrastructure bill on the floor later Thursday and hold the vote open to get the bill through.
The infrastructure bill and economic package are key priorities for the President as well as for Democratic members of Congress who want to prove they can govern.
The problem for party leaders is that progressives have made clear they do not want to vote for the infrastructure bill unless the larger bill moves in tandem and have said a framework is not enough to win their votes.
The President’s visit to the Hill marked a last-ditch attempt to unify the party to secure a deal on the plan and a House vote on the infrastructure bill.
The stakes are enormous with Biden making clear privately for more than a week he wants an agreement and passage of the infrastructure bill before he arrives at a UN Climate Conference on November 1. Biden departs for his foreign trip on Thursday.
Biden pitches Democrats, but progressives remain skeptical
During the closed-door meeting with House Democrats, Biden laid out in person long-awaited details of his $1.75 trillion economic and climate package, trying to convince progressives who are skeptical of anything short of a fully written bill and commitments from all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus to back his framework.
While Biden’s proposal isn’t finalized in its entirety, days of negotiations have brought it to a place where the key elements are all locked in.
The personal pitch to House Democrats marks a concerted effort by the President to wrest control of an unwieldy process that has led to significant revisions to Democratic goals in the effort to secure the support of centrist Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
Not all Democrats have signed off on the framework that Biden announced Thursday morning, two people familiar with the plan cautioned, but the President believes it’s a consensus all Democrats should be able to support.
Neither Manchin nor Sinema explicitly committed to backing the plan Thursday, though they both said they were continuing to negotiate after Biden’s meeting with House Democrats.
Manchin was non-committal when asked by reporters whether he will support the framework agreement. Sinema reacted to the framework by saying in a statement, “we have made significant progress” and “I look forward to getting this done.”
Top progressives so far seem unmoved from their long-standing position.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state emerged from the meeting with Biden telling reporters that she did not think the framework was enough to get progressives on board.
“I would say nothing different than what I what I knew before,” Jayapal said when asked to react to what she heard in the room.
Biden to depart for Europe
After his visit to Capitol Hill, Biden delivered public remarks on the framework.
“Today I’m pleased to announce that after months of tough and thoughtful negotiations, I know we have a historic economic framework,” Biden said.
“It’s a framework that would create millions of jobs, grow the economy, invest in our nation and our people, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity and put us on a path not only to compete, but to win the economic competition for the 21st century against China and every other major country in the world,” he said.
Biden is scheduled to leave for Europe for the Group of 20 Summit later in the day Thursday, a major moment on the world stage for the President that has added urgency to the push for a deal and a House infrastructure vote.
What’s in the framework
The $1.75 trillion proposal focuses on care for families, addressing the climate crisis, expanding access to health care, lowering costs for the middle class and tax reforms.
The new plan makes major concessions and does not have several key planks that Biden had initially proposed, including paid family and medical leave, prescription drug pricing provisions, free community college and vision or dental Medicaid coverage.
It does include provisions to help families with childcare and caregiving, including free and universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, which amounts to the biggest expansion of public education in 100 years, according to the White House.
The largest portion of the framework focuses on climate and would include the largest legislative investment in combating climate change in US history, according to the White House. As part of that, there would be $320 billion for clean energy tax credits. This includes 10-year expanded tax credits for utility-scale and residential clean energy, transmission and storage, clean passenger and commercial vehicles and clean energy manufacturing.
On health care, the plan would close the Medicaid coverage gap and deliver health care coverage through Affordable Care Act premium tax credits to certain uninsured Americans. It would also expand Medicare coverage to include hearing services.
Senate Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote to pass the bill under a process known as budget reconciliation. That dynamic has given every single member — and in particular, moderates like Manchin who have pushed back on a number of the original proposals for the package — an outsized influence over the process.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Thursday.
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