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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Biden’s big bill is on the verge of a House vote, but the fight continues


WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats in the House of Representatives appear to be on the cusp of pushing President Joe Biden’s $ 1.85 trillion domestic policy package that continues to grow, along with the accompanying $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill, which would be a dramatic political achievement. – if they can get him accepted.

The House of Representatives canceled the vote late Thursday but will return to it early Friday morning, and White House officials have been using telephones to block support for the president’s signed proposal. After months of negotiations, the House’s passage of a large bill would be a decisive step, sending Biden’s ambitious efforts to expand health care, childcare and other social services for countless Americans and provide the largest national investment in the fight against climate change in the Senate.

Along with thinner roads, bridges, and broadband, it complements Biden’s response to his campaign promise to rebuild the country from the COVID-19 crisis and confront a changing economy.

But they are not there yet.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi worked fiercely late into the night at the Capitol on Thursday and held the House late into the evening to support the votes. The party has been here before, another politically chaotic day, as have many accused of Democrats’ bleak performance in elections this week. On Capitol Hill and beyond, party leaders said it was time for Congress to fulfill Biden’s agenda.

“We’re going to pass both bills,” Pelosi insisted at a midday press briefing.

Her strategy now appears to be focused on getting the most robust bill possible in her House, and then giving the Senate the ability to adjust or remove parts that its members disagree on. The House Rules Committee was due to meet late Thursday night to prepare the bill for a ballot in the hall.

The 2,135-page bill, half of Biden’s original $ 3.5 trillion package, has appealed to most progressive Democratic lawmakers, even though it’s smaller than they wanted. But the more centrist and financially conservative Democrats continued to argue.

Overall, this package remains more ambitious than any other in recent decades. Republicans are totally opposed to Biden’s bill, which is named “Better Recovery Act” in honor of the 2020 presidential campaign slogan.

The big package will help a huge number of Americans pay for health care, parenting, and home-based care for the elderly.

Prescription drug costs will come down and insulin will be capped at $ 35 per dose, and Medicare will, for the first time, be able to negotiate prices for some other drugs with pharmaceutical companies, a long-awaited Democratic priority.

Medicare will introduce new hearing aid benefits for older Americans, and for those on Medicare Part D, their out-of-pocket prescription drug costs will be capped to $ 2,000.

The package will provide about $ 555 billion in tax breaks that encourage cleaner energy and electric vehicles, the country’s largest commitment to tackling climate change.

In recent days, following a series of late adjustments, Democrats have added key provisions – adding a new paid family leave program, work permits for immigrants, and changes to state and local tax deductions.

Most of the package’s cost will be covered by higher taxes for wealthier Americans earning more than $ 400,000 a year, and a 5% surcharge will be added to those earning more than $ 10 million a year. Large corporations will face a new 15% minimum tax to prevent large businesses from demanding so many deductions that they will ultimately not pay taxes.

From the White House, “the president has made it very clear that he wants to get things off the ground,” said chief deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

As night fell, Democratic leaders struggled to address the list of outstanding issues as lawmakers balanced the promise of Biden’s overarching vision with the realities of their district’s politics.

Biden has few votes left in the narrowly divided chamber, and none when the bill ultimately goes to the 50-50 split in the Senate.

Five centrist Democratic lawmakers want a full budget estimate before voting. Others in the more Republican-leaning regions are opposed to a new tax deduction at the state and local county level, which favors New York, California, and other high-tax states. Another group wishes to amend the regulations regarding immigration.

In recent days, both the overall price and the revenue to be paid for this have risen. According to a summary obtained by the Associated Press, a new White House estimate on Thursday said revenues from corporate taxes, the rich and other changes are estimated to generate $ 2.1 trillion over 10 years. This is more than previous estimates.

Pelosi noted a similar assessment on Thursday by the bipartisan Joint Tax Committee and echoed Biden’s frequent comment that the entire package would be paid in full.

But another model from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania assumed that there would be a lack of revenue to cover expenses, which has raised new doubts among some Democratic lawmakers.

Nonetheless, House Democrats are eagerly awaiting the end of this week, pushing for the president’s agenda and, as some lawmakers prepare to leave for the Scotland Climate Change Summit, show that the US is taking the environment seriously.

Democrats are working to resolve their differences, especially with stubborn Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Cinema of Arizona, who pushed Biden’s bill to be cut but favored a thinner infrastructure package that has stalled in discussions.

Manchin has responded to a new family leave and sick leave program, which is expected to provide four weeks of paid leave after childbirth, to recover from a serious illness, or to care for family members, less than the 12-week program anticipated.

Senators are also likely to rule out the newly added immigration clause, which will create a new program for the roughly 7 million immigrants in the country without legal status, allowing them to apply for work and travel permits in the United States within five years. It is unclear if the addition will go through to the Senate MP under the special budget rules used to handle the package.

As for another unresolved issue, Democrats are still debating a plan to partially lift the $ 10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, especially for high-tax states, and was adopted as part of the Trump-era tax plan for 2017.

While the elimination of the so-called SALT deduction cap is a priority for legislators in several northeastern states, progressives wanted to prevent the super-rich from benefiting. According to the plan, the $ 10,000 deduction limit will be increased to $ 72,500 for 10 years starting in tax year 2021.


Associated Press contributors Farnush Amiri, Kevin Fracking, Amer Madhani, and Mary Claire Jalonik contributed to this report.

World Nation News Desk
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