Biden Visits Capitol Hill to Firm Up Support for Budget Deal

July 14, 2021 by Dan McCue
President Joe Biden joins Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and fellow Democrats at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, to discuss the latest progress on his infrastructure agenda. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden traveled to Capitol Hill on Monday for a working lunch with Senate Democrats, a day after party leaders announced a compromise, $3.5 trillion budget deal that pours federal dollars into a slew of climate change and social programs.

“It’s great to be home,” Biden joked with reporters who awaited his arrival outside the Capitol’s Mansfield Room.

Biden spent 36 years in the Senate before becoming former President Barack Obama’s vice president.

Later, as he made his way back to the White House after just about an hour, he told the waiting press that it’d been great to be with his “colleagues.”

“I think we are going to get a lot done,” he said.

The lunch was a closed-door meeting, though attendees filled in some details afterwards.

The president’s pitch to his fellow Democrats was that they needed to stay united and deliver for “folks who have given up on democracy.”

One senator, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, said the president received three standing ovations during his remarks.

A readout of the meeting released by the White House, said the President credited the senators for their successful work to pass the American Rescue Plan, noting that economic experts have cited it as a leading cause for the record job creation that has taken place since he took office and the doubling of the rate of economic growth in forecasts.

It also said he described his Build Back Better agenda as a follow on to the Rescue Plan, “to ensure that we’re rebuilding a stronger, more inclusive and more resilient middle class.” 
 
Biden emphasized that what tied the economic policies they are working on together was that they were “built from the bottom up, with a recognition for the role that a good job plays in peoples’ lives, the rising costs families have had to bear from child care, elder care, and tuition, and the fact that when working and middle class families do well, everyone does well,” the White House said.
 
“He also discussed how the means for funding these critical investments is popular with the American people, who know that the wealthiest individuals and corporations often pay a lower tax bill than teachers and firefighters,” the readout continued.

On Tuesday night, Democratic Majority Leader Charles Schumer announced that he and other top Democrats had come to an agreement on a deal among themselves to spend $3.5 trillion over the coming decade on a wide range of domestic programs.

These include pet projects of the party’s progressive wing, including the expansion of Medicare, the health insurance program for older Americans, to include vision, dental and hearing coverage.

The plan also will reportedly include the extension of tax credits for children, child care and some low-income people; the creation of a federal standard aimed at encouraging a shift to clean energy, federally-funded pre-kindergarten for toddlers, expanded paid family leave, and a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants.

However, at present, these are all “goals” one senatorial staffer told The Well News. None of the legislation that would actually be rolled into the package has actually been written.

The deal, along with the pending infrastructure bill and other legislation already in the pipeline would fulfill a huge chunk of Biden’s priorities. However, with razor thin margins in both the Senate and the House, he has virtually no votes to lose to bring it all to pass.

Republicans and some moderate Democrats are likely to oppose the bill given that they are financed by hazy pay-fors, and proposed tax increases on the rich and big corporations.

Schumer acknowledged that the road ahead will be long on Wednesday and told reporters he’s well aware there will be “bumps along the way.”

However, he said, “we must make average American lives a whole lot better.”

Republicans could well oppose the effort unanimously, criticizing its costs and likely tax increases. Democrats will need support from all their lawmakers in the 50-50 Senate and could lose no more than three in the House.

In a message to House members, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauded the budget deal struck in the other chamber, and reiterated her contention that “a budget is a statement of values.”

“Every member can be proud of the priorities that this budget commits to – and every member should know that we will fight to ensure that our priorities become law,” she said. “Our House Committees stand ready to work with the Senate, as this topline agreement is turned into legislative text. Doing so is a critical step to passing infrastructure and reconciliation packages that are truly worthy of the American people.

“This budget agreement is a victory for the American people, making historic, once-in-a-generation progress for families across the nation,” Pelosi continued. “The Senate budget will contain many of House Democrats’ top priorities, including transformative action on the investments needed to confront the climate crisis, to transform the care economy, and to expand access to health care with enhancements to ACA, Medicare and closing the Medicaid coverage gap.”

Meanwhile, back at the Senate, a bipartisan group of senators is working to flesh out a related measure that would cost around $1 trillion — including around $579 billion in new spending — on roads, water systems and other more traditional infrastructure projects, another Biden priority. 

Biden and that group had agreed to an outline of that measure last month, and the 10 senators – five Democrats and five Republicans — have met at least twice this week in the hope of eventually crafting a compromise bill that can pass in both chambers. 

“Just the hard stuff is left,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, joked with reporters earlier this week.

The Democrats’ goal is to push a budget resolution reflecting Tuesday’s agreement through the House and the Senate before lawmakers leave for their August recess. 

Budget passage would let Democrats move a follow-up spending bill that actually finances the party’s priorities with just 50 votes and Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote in the Senate, not the 60 votes Republicans could otherwise require with a bill-killing filibuster.

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