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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Vote delayed, Democrats struggle to save Biden’s $3.5T bill

by Lisa Mascaro

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite a long night of frantic negotiations, Democrats were unable to reach an urgent deal to salvage President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion government overhaul, prompting leaders to relinquish promised votes on a related public works bill. was forced to withdraw. Action is to be taken again on Friday.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed the House to an evening session and top White House advisers converged on the Capitol for talks as Democratic leaders worked to negotiate a scaled-back plan that centrist holdouts would accept. Biden had approved his schedule for calls with lawmakers, but it did not appear that a deal was within reach, especially with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

Manchin refused to budge, the West Virginia centrist swiftly holding onto his earlier announcement that he was ready to meet the president in less than half a year — $1.5 trillion.

“I don’t see a deal tonight. I really don’t,” Munchkin told reporters as he left the Capitol.

If they can’t resolve the impasse over Biden’s larger vision, then deep down, the president and his party are facing a potentially embarrassing setback — if not the politically disastrous collapse of the entire enterprise.

At immediate risk was a promised vote on the first piece of Biden’s proposal, a slim $1 trillion public works bill that is widely supported but has faltered amid stalled talks on his more ambitious package. Progressives were refusing to roll back the roads and bridges bill, which they consider inadequate, until progress is made on Biden’s broader plan that is the heart of the Democratic agenda. With support, the leaders made a promise Thursday night that the vote would be canceled, and that the House would return to session on Friday,

Pelosi called it a “day of progress” in a letter to colleagues, but offered some other words on the road ahead.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement saying: “There has been a lot of progress this week, and we are closer to an agreement than ever before. But we are not there yet, and so, we have to get the job done.” Will need some extra time, starting tomorrow morning first thing.”

The political stakes could hardly be higher. Biden and his party are reaching for a colossal legislative achievement — promising a vast rewrite of the nation’s tax and spending plans — with such a meager majority in Congress.

The president’s sweeping proposal topped $3.5 trillion, essentially raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy and diverting that money back to government health care, education and other programs, all of which is touching the lives of countless Americans. He says the final price tag is zero, because the tax revenue covers the cost of the expense.

With Biden working on the phone and top White House officials locked in the Capitol, Democratic leaders tried to ease the impasse by reaching a comprehensive deal, with Arizona’s Manchin and Sen. Centrist Democrats. The linchpin for Biden’s goals.

The idea was to outline a deal on Biden’s comprehensive package, move forward with a $1 trillion public works bill and negotiate the rest of Biden’s big health care, education and climate change bill in the coming days. The lawmakers were told to stay up late into the night for possible votes.

But as the night went on, it became clear that Munchkin was not on board with a higher figure and risked losing out on that $3.5 trillion topline to progressive leaders who said they had already settled for enough. Done and saw no reason to rush into a deal to fetch. centrists all around to support the president’s agenda.

Bernie Sanders, I-VT, chairman of the budget committee and a prominent progressive legislator, said, “We’re fighting for transformational legislation, which, as you all know, has been going on month after month.” . “This is not a baseball game. This is the most important law in 70 years.”

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It all happened on a day that saw a partial victory for Democrats, Congress passage and Biden signing legislation to get the government running before Thursday’s fiscal year-end deadline and averting a federal shutdown, which Republicans were threatened by the blockade.

The Public Works bill is a piece of that broader Biden vision, a $1 trillion investment in regular transportation, broadband, water systems and other projects strengthened with additional funding. It garnered bipartisan support in the Senate but is now mired in widespread debate.

Attention is focused solely on Munchkin and Cinema, two centrist Democrats who helped pass that bipartisan bill, but they worry Biden’s overall bill is too big. Two senators have angered allies by not making any counter-proposals public.

As part of the investigation, Manchin convened an urgent press conference outside the Capitol on Thursday, insisting he was clear from the start.

“I’m ready to sit down and work on $1.5,” Munchkin told reporters, as protesters demanded a bigger package and chanted Biden’s priorities behind them.

Manchin said he told the president as much during his talks this week, and confirmed that he put his thoughts on paper during an earlier conversation with Schumer this summer.

It is not only Manchin’s demand to reduce the overall size, but the terms he seeks on the new spending, that will anger his more liberal allies as he works to ensure that aid is available only to low-income people. for the sake of the wider interests of Americans. Tensions escalated late Wednesday when Munchkin sent out a furious statement, calling the widespread spending “fiscal insanity.”

Cinema was similarly working to brush off criticism and her office said it was not making the claim that she was “false” – although she has not publicly disclosed her views on what size package she will receive. and has declined to answer questions about her condition.

Cinema has put dollar figures on the table and continues to “be directly involved in goodwill discussions” with both Biden and Schumer, spokesman John LaBombard said in a statement.

Democrats’ campaign promises on the line, with Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, walking out of Pelosi’s office, saying progressives’ views were unchanged — they would not vote for one bill without another and would stay the whole weekend. . get a deal.

“Inaction is madness,” said another progressive leader, D-Min., Rep. Ilhan Omar, clarifying his criticism of Manchin’s comments.

“Trying to kill the agenda of your party is madness. Trying not to make sure that the president we all worked so hard to elect has an agenda pass, madness. “

Centrists warned the cancellation of Thursday’s vote “as a breach of trust that would slow the momentum going forward in delivering the Biden agenda,” said Representative Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., of centrist Blue Dog. A leader of the Democrats.

At the same time, Congress resolved much of the immediate crisis by passing legislation to provide government funding and avoid a federal shutdown, temporarily continuing operations until December 3. The House quickly complied, and Biden signed the bill on Thursday evening.

With Republican opposition in lockstep to the president’s big plan, ridiculing it as a slide for socialist-style spending, Biden is reaching for a deal with members of his own party for a signature legislative feat. .

Biden insists that the price tag would be virtually zero because the expansion of government programs would largely be paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy — businesses that make more than $5 million per year, and individuals who make over $5 million per year. Earn over 400,000, or add up to $450,000

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Associated Press writers Marie Claire Jalonik, Brian Slodisko and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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