Biden pitches $1.75tn scaled-down policy agenda to House Democrats

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Joe Biden ventured to Capitol Hill on Thursday morning to announce a “framework” agreement on his pared back domestic policy agenda, a $1.75tn social spending and climate change bill that can only pass with the backing of nearly every Democrat.

Biden pitches $1.75tn scaled-down policy agenda to House Democrats
© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Biden, who delayed his departure to Europe to finalize a deal on the plan, rallied support for the emerging deal during a morning caucus meeting of House Democrats, before planning to make his case to the American public in remarks from the White House. Despite the president’s optimism, it was unclear if the compromise could win over progressive lawmakers disappointed by the concessions made to win over a pair of centrist Senate holdouts.

Biden pitches $1.75tn scaled-down policy agenda to House Democrats
© Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP Joe Biden walks with Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill in Washington DC Thursday.

“It’s a good day,” Biden said as he arrived at the Capitol. “Everyone’s on board.”

The $1.75tn framework released by the White House is far smaller in size and scope than the $3.5tn package initially envisioned as a modern-day New Deal. It would make major new investments in childcare and caregiving as well as transitioning the US economy away from fossil fuels. According to the White House, the framework would put the US on track to meet the president’s pledge to slash planet-warming emissions by 2030.

Among the other provisions in the bill are free preschool for every three- and four-year-old, expanded health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and what the White House is calling the largest “effort to combat climate change in American history”.

Left out of the bill are a paid family program that would have provided up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and brought the US closer to its global peers; plans to make community college tuition free; efforts to lower prescription drug prices and a proposal to expand Medicare to cover vision, and dental and hearing was pared back to just hearing.

A novel proposal to tax billionaires’ assets was also cut, amid opposition from Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the key holdouts, who said the effort had the “the connotation that we’re targeting different people”.

Democrats were also working to meet the demands of Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, whose opposition to certain tax proposals left Democrats scrambling to find ways to pay for their agenda.

The proposal would be paid for by imposing a surtax on multimillionaires, a corporate minimum tax and by rolling back some of the Trump administration’s tax cuts passed in 2017. It honors Biden’s campaign pledge that he would not raise taxes on Americans earning less than $400,000 per year, according to the White House.

After weeks of frenetic negotiations, Democrats were scrambling to cobble together a deal that the president could tout when he travels to

to Rome, the Vatican, and then to the United Nations climate conference, known as Cop26, in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Biden administration was said to be preparing a flurry of executive orders and other actions to have some climate policies in hand before the Cop26 conference, which begins on 31 October. But without adequate congressional support and funding, those actions will fall short of what the original Build Back Better agenda had promised.

Progressive House Democrats have been withholding their votes for the separate infrastructure bill, which already passed the Senate, as leverage for action on the social spending plan.

Pramila Jayapal, chair of the House Progressive Caucus, told reporters on Wednesday that until Democrats are unified around a social spending plan, over 40 members of her caucus have agreed to vote against the infrastructure bill.

“And that number is only increasing,” Jayapal said Wednesday.

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