WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine is one of a small number of Democratic holdouts on President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion spending package with his party on the verge of advancing it alongside a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill, saying he will not back the larger bill without a full fiscal analysis.
The House scrapped votes late Thursday but will be back at it early Friday, and White House officials worked the phones to lock in support for the president’s proposal. After months of negotiations, House passage of the big bill would be a crucial step, sending to the Senate Biden’s ambitious effort to expand health care, child care and other social services for countless Americans and deliver the nation’s biggest investment yet to fight climate change. It is expected to face more changes in the upper chamber before returning to the House.
Alongside the slimmer roads-bridges-and-broadband package, it adds up to Biden’s answer to his campaign promise to rebuild the country from the COVID-19 crisis and confront a changing economy. But the House vote set for Friday is not the final step.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, worked furiously into the night at the Capitol Thursday and kept the House late to shore up votes. It was another politically messy day like many before being blamed for the Democrats’ dismal showing in this week’s elections. On and off Capitol Hill, party leaders declared it’s time for Congress to deliver on Biden’s agenda.
“We’re going to pass both bills,” Pelosi insisted at a midday press briefing.
Her strategy now seems focused on passing the most robust bill possible in her chamber and then leaving the Senate to adjust or strip out the portions its members won’t agree to. The House Rules Committee processed final revisions including to a state-and-local tax deduction in a brief meeting late Thursday in preparation for floor votes.
Half the size of Biden’s initial $3.5 trillion package, the now sprawling 2,135-page bill has won over most of the progressive Democratic lawmakers, though it is smaller than they wanted. But the chamber’s more centrist and fiscally conservative Democrats, including Golden, a sophomore congressman from Maine’s 2nd District, continued to mount objections.
Golden has urged Pelosi to pass the bipartisan bill ahead of the larger package, while progressives balked at. He and other centrist Democrats want a full budgetary assessment before they vote, which will not happen if the vote comes Friday. Without it, Golden will vote against the package, he told reporters outside Pelosi’s office on Friday. She can only lose three Democratic votes and is not expected to bring the measure to the floor if it will not pass.
A new White House assessment Thursday said revenue from the taxes on corporations and the wealthy and other changes are estimated to bring in $2.1 trillion over 10 years, according to a summary obtained by The Associated Press. Pelosi noted a similar assessment Thursday by the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. But another model from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania suggested a shortfall in revenue for covering the cost.
Overall the package remains more far-reaching than any other in decades. Republicans are fully opposed to Biden’s bill, which is called the “Build Back Better Act” after the president’s 2020 campaign slogan.
The package would provide large numbers of Americans with assistance to pay for health care, raising children and caring for seniors at home. The price of insulin would be capped and Medicare would be able to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for prices of some other drugs. Medicare would have a new hearing aid benefit for older Americans, and those with Medicare Part D would see out-of-pocket prescription costs capped at $2,000.
The package would provide some $555 billion in tax breaks encouraging cleaner energy and electric vehicles in the nation’s largest-ever commitment to tackling climate change.
With a flurry of late adjustments, the Democrats added key provisions in recent days — adding back a new paid family leave program and work permits for immigrants. Late changes Thursday would lift a $10,000 cap on state-and-local tax deductions to $80,000.
Much of the package’s cost would be covered with higher taxes on Americans earning more than $400,000 a year, and a 5 percent surtax would be added on those making over $10 million annually. Large corporations would face a new 15 percent minimum tax in a bid to stop big businesses from claiming so many deductions that they end up paying zero in taxes.
As night fell, Democratic leaders struggled to resolve a catalog of remaining issues as lawmakers balanced the promise of Biden’s sweeping vision with the realities of their home-district politics. Biden has few votes to spare in the narrowly divided House and none when the bill arrives for consideration in the 50-50 Senate.
As Democrats have narrowed the package in recent days, Golden has praised some of the changes, including income limits on child care assistance and the removal of a tobacco tax. But he is alongside a coalition of progressives and conservatives in objecting to a new state-and-local tax deduction that favors New York, California and other high-tax states.
Democrats have been working to resolve differences, particularly with holdout Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who forced cutbacks to Biden’s bill but championed the slimmer infrastructure package that had stalled amid deliberations.
Manchin has panned the new family and medical leave program, which is expected to provide four weeks of paid time off after childbirth, for recovery from major illness or for caring for family members, less than the 12-week program once envisioned. Senators are also likely to strip out a new program for some 7 million immigrants in the country without legal standing, allowing them to apply for permits to work and travel in the U.S. for five years.
Story by Lisa Mascaro and Alan Fram. Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri, Kevin Freking, Aamer Madhani and Mary Clare Jalonick and BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.