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House Democrats Break Impasse to Advance $3.5T Budget Plan

August 24, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leaves the chamber after urging advancement of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for the late Georgia congressman who made the issue a defining one of his career, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — House Democrats narrowly approved a $3.5 trillion budget framework Tuesday, hours after coming to agreement with moderates whose desire for an immediate vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill nearly scuttled President Joe Biden’s sweeping domestic agenda.

In a strictly party line vote, the House voted 220-212 to adopt a rule that allows Democrats to make any modifications needed for the massive $3.5 trillion social benefits package to pass. 

The rule also allowed the chamber to take up a voting rights measure that appeared on track to pass Tuesday evening, and requires the House to take up the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill by Sept. 27.

The moderates said they would go along with the Build Back Better Plan only if they could vote early on infrastructure proposals, rather than an entire package that includes social benefits.

The infrastructure would consist of water systems, broadband telecommunications, railroads, airport improvements and other bedrock parts of the economy. 

Biden’s infrastructure proposals already have won approval in the Senate and gained wide support in the House. They represent about $1.2 trillion in projects.

After negotiations that stretched late into the night Monday, the Democrat-led House Rules Committee agreed to a resolution that would require a vote on the infrastructure plan no later than Sept. 27.

However, the resolution left uncertain any date for a vote on social benefits in Biden’s Build Back Better Plan. They include funding for education, childcare, job training and housing subsidies.

“It is my hope that my colleagues recognize the fundamental choice before us, whether to advance the president’s agenda or whether to obstruct it,” said Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., chairman of the House Rules Committee.

Even some Democrats are hesitating, saying the president’s proposals for social benefits are far too expensive. Republicans are pledging strong opposition unless changes are made.

“This is spending money that we don’t have,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told Fox Business.

Republicans argue the social benefits would lead to higher taxes, more inflation and raise the federal deficit, potentially forcing future generations to pay off the debt.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her supporters that included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., were insisting the infrastructure and social programs should be presented as a package deal to Congress.

Pelosi earlier said she would delay a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill until work on the $3.5 trillion social benefits proposal was completed.

She was concerned that separating them would dilute support for the entire program.

Pelosi relented after seeing that infrastructure projects in the Build Back Better Plan, a keynote piece of the Biden administration’s agenda, could fail without an early vote.

“Passing an infrastructure bill is always exciting for what it means in terms of jobs and commerce in our country,” Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday.

She held out hope for a compromise that would get the social benefits plan through the Senate when she said she wanted to “work with House and Senate Democrats to reach agreement … ”

Biden promoted his economic agenda during a White House press conference Tuesday afternoon.

After thanking lawmakers who voted for the infrastructure resolution, he said his economic plan represents “historic investments that will transform America … for long-term, long-term growth.”

He addressed critics’ concerns about the high costs when he said, “This is all paid for.”

He was referring to his proposal for higher taxes on big corporations and wealthy persons but lower taxes for middle and low-income Americans.

“My goal is to build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not just the top down,” Biden said.

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