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Biden pushes $1.75 trillion US spending deal ahead of Europe trip » Capital News



US President Joe Biden, followed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (C) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (R), arrives at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 28, 2021 © AFP / MANDEL NGAN

Washington (AFP), Oct 28 – US President Joe Biden announced Thursday a revised $1.75 trillion social spending plan that he is confident Democrats will support, ending weeks of wrangling and delivering a political victory hours before he departs for twin summits in Europe.

Biden failed in his original goal of securing a vote in Congress, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority, before going to Rome for meetings with Pope Francis and G20 leaders, then a UN climate summit in Glasgow.

Instead, his dramatic last-minute intervention will present Democrats with a deal too good to refuse, senior aides believe.

Putting the full prestige of his presidency on the line, Biden went up to Capitol Hill to unveil the framework agreement to Democratic leaders.

He was then to deliver an address to the American people from the White House, before heading to the airport to board Air Force One.

The White House said Biden’s compromise outline of the legislation would pour $1.75 trillion into education, childcare, clean energy and other social services.

This is much less than the original $3.5 trillion price tag Biden and left-leaning Democrats wanted. However, this would still represent a major win a year after Biden, 78, defeated Donald Trump with a promise to heal America’s “soul.”

Weeks of Democratic feuding over both the details and costs had threatened to sink the bill, simultaneously dooming a second initiative meant to invest $1.2 trillion in America’s crumbling infrastructure.

Biden is now sure he has Congress ready to accept his deal, although the timing of a vote remains up to the Democratic speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

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“Everybody’s on board,” he told reporters as he arrived on Capitol Hill to meet party leaders. “It’s a good day.”

A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “The president believes this framework will earn the support of all 50 Democratic senators and pass the House.”

– Seeking to make history –

Democrats control Congress but with a razor-thin margin, making it hard to pass legislation © AFP / MANDEL NGAN

Another official said the two bills in play will “make historic investments” and that the White House is “confident” in finally getting Democrats to unite.

Democrats enjoy a rare period of controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency. However, the margins are so tight — with only a one vote advantage in the Senate and a handful in the House — that enacting major legislation has proved tortuous.

Biden has been repeatedly frustrated as just two moderate Democrats in the Senate held up his social spending ambitions, while left-leaning Democrats in the House blocked the infrastructure bill.

In his speech at 11:30 am (1530 GMT), Biden will “speak to the American people about the path forward for his economic agenda and the next steps to getting it done,” another White House official said.

If enacted, Biden’s new proposal would provide universal pre-school education for three and four-year-olds, expand government-backed health care coverage for at least four years and slash the country’s greenhouse gas emissions over a decade.

Whether the president’s visit to Congress was enough to galvanize the rank-and-file remains to be seen, however.

Left out of the framework were key progressive priorities to offer 12 weeks of paid family leave, free community college, and reform on America’s sky-high prescription drug prices.

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Liberals including Congressional Progressive Caucus chairwoman Pramila Jayapal and New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said they needed to see a finalized legislative text before committing.

“We need to keep the promise that was made. We have been very clear,” added leftist Minnesota lawmaker Ilhan Omar.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez said he wanted to see more specifics, voicing disappointment that state and local tax relief and prescription drug pricing reform appeared to have been dropped.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that what’s in the legislation is critically important… I see the framework as an opportunity to get to the final goal,” he told MSNBC.

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