President 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,” Mr. 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, Mr. 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,” Mr. Biden privately told them on 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 Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and Budget Committee chairman.
At least one lawmaker involved in the talks had been told as of Thursday morning that two crucial holdouts, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, had yet to commit to voting for it, according to another person briefed on the discussions, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In a statement, Ms. 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.
Mr. 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 Mr. 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 six million 3- and 4-year-olds and subsidies to limit the costs of child care to no more than 7 percent 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 on Monday in Scotland, where he hoped to point to the deal as evidence of the United States’ 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 Mr. Biden for his signature.
President Biden rolled out his $1.85 trillion framework for an environment and social policy plan with great fanfare on Thursday, pitching it as a package that could unite his fractious party. But in reality, the proposal was more of an outline of a bill whose major components and key details were still being hammered out.
Even after directing members to an early version of the plan’s legislative text, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California suggested there were additional changes to come, including her desire to add back a proposed federal paid family and medical leave program that Mr. Biden omitted.
White House officials and top Democrats also continued to negotiate over a costly tax provision, a plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs, and a proposal to allow the Internal Revenue Service access to bank account information to help crack down on tax cheats, among other components that could have a large impact on the size and shape of the plan.
For instance, a fact sheet released by the White House omitted a provision that is a top priority of lawmakers from New York, New Jersey and other high-tax jurisdictions that would lift the cap on how much in state and local taxes people can deduct from their federal taxes. Lawmakers from those states have warned that they could not support the bill without its inclusion.
Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said that it was likely that the final measure would, in fact, include the so-called SALT provision, which is likely to cost hundreds of billions of dollars and would amount to a large tax cut for upper-middle-class people.
Mr. Biden’s outline also did not include the bank reporting provision, after Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a crucial swing vote, expressed concerns about it, but an administration official said the White House was still working with him to win his approval for adding it to package. Negotiators were optimistic about reaching a deal on the measure, which is estimated to generate substantial sums to pay for the broader legislation.
And an intensive set of talks continued on prescription drug pricing after Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and centrists in the House effectively rejected a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of medications. A narrower provision Ms. Sinema had been discussing with White House officials — which would have limited drug price negotiations to a small subset of outpatient medications like chemotherapy drugs that had passed their period of patent exclusivity — was left out of Mr. Biden’s announcement on Thursday.
But Democrats were toiling to restore it.
“The prescription drug deal on the table isn’t everything I want, but it’s not a fig leaf,” Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, wrote on Twitter. “It’s likely $100B in cuts to drug company profits with the money to be used to cut out of pocket costs for seniors in half.”
Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and Budget Committee chairman, also vowed to keep pressing for a broader expansion of Medicare, after his initial proposal to add hearing, vision and dental benefits was cut back to only cover hearing.
President Biden met with lawmakers on Thursday morning to lay out a framework on a $1.85 trillion effort to spend heavily on climate change, child care and a wide range of other economic programs, paid for by an estimated $2 trillion in tax increases on corporations and high earners, though it was not immediately clear if it has the votes to pass.
White House officials refused to say if all holdout Democrats in Congress had expressed support for the framework, which still may change.
The framework leaves out several key planks of the economic agenda that Mr. Biden laid out on the campaign trail and shortly after taking office. It does nothing to reduce prescription drug costs for seniors, and it omits what would have been the nation’s first federally guaranteed paid family and medical leave for workers. It does not include free community college for all, as Mr. Biden had promised. It would expand Medicare coverage to include hearing, but not vision or dental services.
It also would not raise the corporate tax rate or the top individual income tax rate, and it would not impose a new tax on the unrealized wealth gains of billionaires, as Democrats had recently proposed.
The key provisions of the proposal include:
$555 billion to fight climate change, largely through tax incentives for low-emission sources of energy.
$400 billion to provide universal prekindergarten to 3- and 4-year-olds, and to significantly reduce child care costs for working families earning up to $300,000 a year.
$200 billion to extend an expanded tax credit for parents through 2022, and to permanently allow parents to benefit from the child tax credit even if they do not earn enough money to have income tax liability.
$165 billion to reduce health care premiums for people who are covered through the Affordable Care Act, to provide insurance for an additional four million people through Medicaid and to offer hearing coverage through Medicare.
$150 billion to reduce a waiting list for in-home care for seniors and disabled Americans, and to improve wages for home health care workers.
$150 billion to build one million affordable housing units.
$100 billion for immigration streamlining, in part to reduce a backlog of nine million visas. House Democrats proposed provisions last month to address the legal immigration system, including a plan to recapture hundreds of thousands of unused visas various administrations failed to use over several decades and allow green card applicants to pay higher fees to expedite their processing. The investment outlined on Thursday would also expand legal representation for migrants and streamline processing at the southwest border, officials said. Mr. Biden has faced criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for his handling of migration to the border.
$40 billion for worker training and higher education, including increasing annual Pell grants by $550.
Offsetting that spending is an estimated $2 trillion in revenue increases, including:
A 15 percent minimum tax on the reported profits of large corporations.
Efforts to reduce profit-shifting by multinational companies, including a separate 15 percent minimum tax on profits earned by U.S. companies abroad — and tax penalties for companies that have their headquarters in global tax havens.
A 1 percent tax on corporate stock buybacks.
Increased enforcement for large corporations and the wealthy at the Internal Revenue Service.
An additional 5 percent tax on incomes exceeding $10 million a year and another 3 percent tax on incomes above $25 million.
Efforts to limit business losses for the very wealthy and to impose a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on certain people earning more than $400,000 a year who did not previously pay that tax.
Jim Tankersley and
President Biden proudly trumpeted his Build Back Better legislative “framework” Thursday, but that document is a long way from being an actual piece of legislation. Frameworks cannot be enacted and signed into law, though it would certainly simplify the process if they could.
The White House outline laying out broad areas of agreement on complex issues such as universal prekindergarten and clean energy investment incentives is really just a shell that will need to be filled out with pages and pages of dense and technical language explaining exactly how the new programs will be implemented and who will qualify.
Adding an entire new benefit to Medicare is going to take more legislative language than just “Allow Medicare to cover the cost of hearing,” as the framework declared.
Trying to satisfy progressive Democrats who insisted on seeing text of the social safety net bill before agreeing to end their blockade of a separate infrastructure measure, House Democratic leaders on Thursday afternoon released a 1,684-page preliminary version of their measure drafted by various committees.
But even that bill was more of a starting point for negotiation than a final product, cobbled together before Mr. Biden’s framework was unveiled. It is likely going to take substantial revising to align it with the president’s vision and ultimately produce a final version that has the support to clear Congress.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi conceded the proposal would be undergoing changes once lawmakers got their hands on it.
“For those who said they want to see text, the text is there for you to review, for you to complain about, for you to add to or subtract from — whatever it is,” she told reporters. “We’ll see what consensus emerges from that.”
Whatever consensus does emerge, it will then have to be put in bill form and then pass both the House and Senate, a process that is going to take some time as lawmakers haggle over the fine points.
While it may be trite to say the devil is in the details, that has long proven true about legislative language. Lawmakers who avidly support abstract concepts might balk at the details once they are laid out in bill form. That is a main reason House progressives have been insisting that they see an actual bill before agreeing to move forward on the infrastructure measure they have been blocking for leverage over the social policy and climate measure.
A few words or a phrase can make a huge difference. Legislative wars have been waged over the difference between “may” and “shall.”
That also helps explain why centrist Democratic Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are refraining from declaring definitively that they will support the framework, since the legislation that emanates from it could go beyond what they can accept.
Mr. Manchin, for example, delayed a vote on a major Democratic pandemic relief bill earlier this year over his unhappiness with the final language on unemployment benefits after the bill had already hit the floor and was on the runway to passage.
No language for the social safety net bill has even emerged in the Senate. But the good news for Democrats — and for beleaguered staffers who write legislation — is that much work has already been done in the committees and congressional offices that have championed particular provisions for years in some cases. Existing legislative proposals can be revised and tailored to fit in the framework and then compiled into what will undoubtedly be a voluminous piece of legislation at the end of the day.
But it will be legislation, not a framework, that gets passed on Capitol Hill — if anything gets passed at all.
President Biden announced Thursday a revised framework to try to pass a $1.85 trillion social safety net bill and a $1 trillion infrastructure measure, just hours before he planned to leave for a six-day European trip to meet with world leaders.
“After months of tough and thoughtful negotiations, I think we have — I know we have — a historic economic framework,” the president said. “This framework includes historic investments in our nation, and in our people.”
Mr. Biden delivered his remarks from the East Room of the White House after returning from Capitol Hill, where he pleaded with Democratic lawmakers to put aside their differences and vote for both measures as a way of advancing their common agenda.
“No one got everything they wanted, including me,” he said. “But that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus. And that’s what I ran on.”
For Mr. Biden, the announcement of the framework is a major step toward making good on the heart of his campaign promises: to invest in infrastructure, rebuild the social safety net, shrink the gap between the rich and poor and prove democracy can work.
“I know how deeply people feel” about their priorities, he said.
But he began what aides said will be a robust effort to sell the benefits of the plan to the American people, calling it a historic effort that will begin to fundamentally alter the way government provides services to the American public in the years to come.
In concluding his remarks, he urged lawmakers to “get this done” and took no questions from reporters.
“This agenda, the agenda that’s in these bills, is what 81 million people voted for,” he said. “Their voices deserve to be heard, not denied.”
As they hunt for revenue to pay for their sprawling spending bill and try to unite a fractured caucus, Democrats are attempting to rewrite the United States tax code in a matter of days, proposing the kind of sweeping changes to how America taxes businesses and individuals that would normally take months or years to enact.
The effort has effectively discarded trillions of dollars of carefully crafted tax increases that President Biden proposed on the campaign trail and that top Democrats have rolled out in Congress. Instead, lawmakers are throwing a slew of new proposals into the mix, including a tax on billionaires, hoping that they can pass muster both legally and within their own party.
On Thursday, the White House rolled out its own set of tax proposals, including a surtax on the wealthiest Americans and a new tax on publicly-traded companies that buy back their own shares.
The frantic attempt to overhaul the complex U.S. tax code remains in a state of flux given the disparate tax proposals being considered — and rejected.
On Wednesday, with Senator Joe Manchin III and some House Democrats expressed reservations about the tax on billionaires that was proposed earlier in the day by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. On Tuesday, Mr. Manchin shot down a plan that would have given the Internal Revenue Service more visibility into certain taxpayers’ bank accounts in order to catch tax cheats, forcing a group of Senate Democrats who support the provision to try to negotiate a compromise.
Mr. Manchin’s opposition to a new federal paid leave program also appeared to doom its chances of being included in the final legislation, although supporters of the provision said they would fight to keep it intact.
Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, acknowledged on Wednesday that the rapid pace of the legislative process posed risks and said it would be preferable to “allow some of this very, very complicated tax policy to get an appropriate airing back and forth.”
The need to roll out new tax proposals stems largely from the concerns of business groups — and moderate Democrats — who effectively killed Mr. Biden’s initial plan to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent to pay for his clean energy and social policy initiatives. Other ideas proposed by the White House, including raising the top marginal rate for the wealthiest taxpayers and doubling the capital gains tax, have also been jettisoned.
The new policy proposals include elements of the kind of wealth tax that Mr. Biden shied away from during his campaign in favor of other tax increases. Under the new plan, billionaires, who often pay little to nothing in federal income taxes, would have to pay taxes on the increased value of certain liquid assets, like stocks and bonds, even if those assets were not sold and the gains were not realized.
But the White House did not throw its support behind that plan and instead proposed a surtax on the very rich. It would differ from the billionaires tax in that it would apply to income, rather than the value of liquid assets like stocks and bonds. Those with incomes exceeding $10 million would face a 5 percent tax and another 3 percent tax would be levied on those with incomes above $25 million.
A second proposal, which Mr. Biden also included in the new framework released on Thursday, would impose a 15 percent tax on companies that report at least $1 billion in profits to shareholders but have little or no federal tax liability as a result of tax deductions and other loopholes.
If enacted, the taxes would likely apply to fewer than 1,000 companies and individuals. But the breakneck speed at which changes are being considered and crafted is rattling business groups and some powerful Democrats, who have expressed concern about the consequences of moving so quickly.
Alan Rappeport and
The biggest legislative negotiation in years is taking place on Capitol Hill and at the White House, with key holdouts shuttling back and forth, lawmakers locked in intense private meetings and the news media providing minute-by-minute coverage of the developments.
And Republicans in the House and the Senate have absolutely nothing to do with any of it.
Sidelined by budget rules that give majority Democrats full control over the social safety net bill they are trying to push through, Republicans are strictly spectators as they revel in the internal Democratic disputes, snipe at the emerging legislation and game out how best to take advantage of the situation for next year’s crucial midterm elections.
Top Republican lawmakers who are usually mobbed by reporters walk unimpeded through the Capitol corridors while Democrats are chased down for any snippet of the current state of play. The lack of attention has not gone unnoticed.
“We’re a little bit surprised you’re even here today, because we know all the news is being made on the other side,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, told reporters who showed up for his weekly news conference on Tuesday.
It is not an unprecedented situation. As recently as 2017, Republicans went it alone on their Trump-era tax cuts using the budget reconciliation process, which shields legislation from a filibuster, knowing that Democrats would not support the corporate tax breaks that the Republican Party was eagerly handing out. In 2009 and 2010, Democrats had substantial enough majorities in the Senate and the House that they could enact the Affordable Care Act on their own over universal Republican resistance.
Aware that Republicans would never support the kinds of social and climate programs they are trying to enact in the safety net legislation, Democrats are the ones using reconciliation this time. With the shoe on the other foot and with razor-thin Democratic majorities, the one-sided legislating has rendered Republicans virtually irrelevant as Congress debates potentially momentous legislation expected to cost at least $1.5 trillion.
“As somebody who is open to ideas from both sides and works on a lot of different initiatives with Democrats, to really not be involved or engaged in any aspect of it is just really odd,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is among the few Republicans who occasionally join with Democrats on important legislation.
But there seems to be no fear of missing out among Republicans, given their hostility to the emerging domestic policy package, which would lead to a level of social spending that is anathema to Republican lawmakers.
“They just have to satisfy their political base to the point where it gets pulled so far left,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said of the Democrats. “Obviously we don’t like being shut out of the policymaking, but that is the choice they made.”
The budget reconciliation process allows Congress to advance certain spending and tax bills on a simple majority vote, freeing lawmakers in the Senate from the 60-vote threshold most legislation must meet to be considered. Democrats are aiming to use the process to pass their sweeping social safety net and climate change measure, which carries much of President Biden’s agenda, in the face of united Republican opposition.
The process begins with a budget resolution, which establishes a blueprint for federal spending and directs congressional committees to write bills to achieve certain policy results, setting spending and revenue over a certain amount of time. Its name refers to the process of reconciling existing laws with those directives. Here are some key things to know about the legislative maneuver.
There are strict rules on what can be included.
While reconciliation allows senators to scale procedural and scheduling hurdles, it is also subject to strict limits that could constrain any package Democrats seek to pass.
In the Senate, the “Byrd Rule,” established by former Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, bars extraneous provisions — including any measure that does not change revenue or spending, that affects the Social Security program or that increases the deficit after a period of time set in the budget resolution. It is intended to ensure that the reconciliation process cannot be abused to jam through unrelated policies.
The rule’s name lends itself to a number of bird-related puns commonly used to describe the stages of the process. There is the “Byrd bath,” when the Senate parliamentarian scrubs and analyzes a bill for any provision that violates the rule if a senator raises a concern about a violation. Anything that does not survive the scrutiny is known as a “Byrd dropping” and is removed from the legislation.
Vice President Kamala Harris could overrule the parliamentarian, but that has not been done since 1975.
The legislative math is proving tough for Democrats.
A budget blueprint was advanced in August and committees have been working on drafting the reconciliation legislation, but centrist Democrats in the Senate who have balked at the $3.5 trillion price tag have created an impasse as party leaders try to negotiate a compromise.
Because Republicans have made it clear they are unified in their opposition, Democrats cannot afford to lose even one vote from their party in the Senate. In the House, the math is almost as challenging: If every representative voted, Democrats could afford to lose only three of their members.