Pelosi: Democrats within striking distance of deal

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Pelosi: Democrats within striking distance of deal
© Greg Nash Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addresses reporters during her weekly press conference on Tuesday, October 12, 2021.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that Democrats are within striking distance of winning a long-sought agreement on President Biden’s sweeping domestic agenda.

Returning to the Capitol from a White House breakfast with the president, the Speaker said there are “a couple outstanding issues” to iron out in the health care arena, but the environmental aspects of the bill “are resolved” and she’s “optimistic” that a deal is close.

“We’re in good shape. We’re moving along,” Pelosi said.

“We had a very positive meeting this morning; I’m very optimistic,” she added. “It’s exciting, because whatever it is, it’s going to be bigger than anything we’ve ever done for the American people.”

Pelosi and President Biden were joined Friday by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who participated in the discussion remotely. The leaders are scrambling to secure an agreement on a massive social spending package at the center of Biden’s economic agenda, which includes a broad expansion of health care benefits, safety net programs and efforts to combat climate change.

A key barrier to a deal has emerged in recent days in the form of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), whose opposition to tax hikes on corporations and wealthy individuals – big revenue-raisers that were included in the Democrats’ initial $3.5 trillion package – has forced party leaders to seek offsets elsewhere.

Appearing at a CNN town hall Thursday night, Biden had laid out the latest developments in those talks, suggesting that Sinema’s position would prevent Democrats from including those pay-fors in the final package.

Pelosi on Friday downplayed those divisions, noting that House Democrats had already proposed trillions of dollars in new revenue as part of the $3.5 trillion package. Because the moderates have forced Biden to propose a much smaller price-tag, in the range of $2 trillion, committee leaders – including Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) of Ways and Means – simply need to choose which of those to implement in lieu of the tax hikes Sinema opposes, Pelosi said.

“We were ready with that, because we were at 3.5,” Pelosi said. “So it’s just a question of what we decide.”

Pelosi declined to say if Democrats are far enough along to vote on the social benefits package, along with a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill, by the end of next week. Party leaders had set Oct. 31 as an informal timeline for staging those votes, since the authorization for federal highway funding expires the same day.

Pelosi said she’ll discuss the timing with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who controls the House floor schedule, “and we’ll see.”

Asked if a deal is close, Pelosi said “it’s very possible.”

“Much of what we need to do has been written; it’s just a few decisions now,” she said.

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