(C) Reuters. The U.S Capitol seen at night from Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, U.S., October 24, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo
By Trevor Hunnicutt and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday he had secured a new $1.75 trillion framework for economic and climate change spending that could pass the Senate, and expressed confidence it would win the backing of all wings of the Democratic Party.
“Today I’m pleased to announce after months of tough and thoughtful negotiations, I think we have, I know we have a historic economic framework,” that will create millions of jobs and allow the United States to compete with China and other countries, Biden said after a last-minute trip to Congress to get reluctant progressives to support his spending plan.
In a meeting with Democrats in the House of Representatives, Biden pleaded for their support, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“I need you to help me; I need your votes.” Biden told them. “I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the House and Senate (Democratic) majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hopes to hold a vote on Thursday on a related, bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill. She told lawmakers she wants the vote finished by the time Biden lands in Rome tonight, where he will attend a meeting of G20 leaders, someone briefed on the conversations said.
The situation sets up a battle of wills in Congress between moderate Democrats, who want the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed as soon as possible, and progressives in the party who said they wouldn’t vote for it without a vote on the larger spending bill at the same time.
U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive (NYSE:PGR) Caucus, said the group would need to see any text of a spending bill before promising to vote on the infrastructure legislation.
“My understanding is that the framework is very general. So let’s turn it into legislative text,” she said, as she headed to the meeting with Biden in the U.S. Capitol.
Other members of the 95-member caucus backed her up. “We need to keep the promise that was made. We’ve been very clear. We need to see the two bills simultaneously move together,” Representative Ilhan Omar said.
The larger spending plan framework Biden presented on Thursday would be fully paid for by repealing certain tax rebates passed under former President Donald Trump, imposing a surcharge on corporate stock buybacks, and adding a surcharge on the earnings of the wealthiest Americans, the White House said.
The framework includes https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-biden-infrastructure-details-factbox-idUSKBN2HI1WZ $555 billion in spending for climate initiatives, and six years of preschool funding, among other top agenda items, but does not include paid family leave or a tax on billionaires.
The White House says the plan has the support of all 50 Democrats in the evenly-divided Senate and said it is confident this bill can also pass the House.
The president had hoped to reach an agreement before attending a G20 meeting in Rome, where a global minimum tax will be high on the agenda, and a climate conference in Glasgow, where Biden hopes to present a message that the United States is back in the fight against global warming.
Progressives have vowed to block the infrastructure bill until they see a social spending bill that invests sufficiently in healthcare, education and climate change mitigation, among other priorities. Some Republicans support the infrastructure measure but most lawmakers in that party oppose both bills, and Biden can only afford to lose three votes in the House to get either passed.
Even if a framework is adopted in coming days, as Democrats hope, Biden will likely arrive at the G20 leaders meeting and the U.N. Climate Change Conference without final legislation in hand even as the United States seeks to ask other countries to adopt similar initiatives.
In addition to their slight majority in the House, Democrats only narrowly control the Senate, with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote, meaning legislation must win support across a wide swath of progressives and more moderate members of the party.
The White House on Wednesday said Biden had “flexibility” for his departure and has said he can continue to work with lawmakers on his agenda amid his trip, including from moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who opposed Biden’s initial plans.
“Details matter. On climate, they’re life+death. So to do my job, I need more than an IOU. Not too much to ask,” U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive, said in a post on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) late on Wednesday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN plans for paid family leave have been dropped from the framework and that $555 billion would be included for clean energy.
Jeffries give no details on the framework but said he would support the deal given the urgent need for climate action even if the paid leave provision is dropped.
“If it turns out that the votes don’t exist for it in the Senate, we will live to fight another day,” he said.