Pelosi: Social spending and climate package is ‘alive’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that negotiations on a massive social spending and climate package remain active despite the opposition from Senate centrists that stopped the legislation in its tracks last year.

The Speaker emphasized that House Democrats, who passed a roughly $2 trillion reconciliation package in November, are essentially sidelined as Senate leaders seek to continue the delicate talks with the centrist holdouts.

But a day after meeting with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) at the White House to discuss the economy, Pelosi said there’s still a chance of enacting some slimmed-down version of the House legislation this year.

“Reconciliation is a Senate matter. We passed our bill, we made our views known. And that is a closely held negotiation on the Senate side,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. 

“Suffice to say that we expressed our interest in the timing, when it would happen. But we did not get into the details.”

“It’s alive,” she added. “I would say that.”

Pelosi declined to reveal any details about the White House talks, but expressed some hope that whatever proposal might emerge will extend enhanced premium subsidies for millions of patients under ObamaCare. Those subsidies, adopted last year under Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, are scheduled to expire at the end of 2022 — an occurrence that vulnerable House Democrats are scrambling to prevent. 

“There are certain concerns that we have about subsidies in the health care bill and the rest, which may or may not be in the negotiation,” Pelosi said. “But we shall see.” 

Pelosi and House Democrats had passed their version of the enormous reconciliation package late last year after months of tense talks between liberals and moderates over the particulars of the legislation. 

The social spending bill includes a host of policies designed to help working families that Democrats have sought, in some cases, for decades. The list includes child care subsidies, universal preschool, paid family leave, renewable energy tax incentives and extensions of both the expanded child tax credit and enhanced ObamaCare subsidies. 

The bill represented the core of Biden’s successful campaign message in 2020, but it hit a brick wall in the Senate, where centrist Democrats — most notably Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) — balked at the size and scope of the benefits. Manchin said the new spending was particularly concerning amid the national spike in inflation, which he fears will be exacerbated by another round of federal stimulus. 

Under the reconciliation rules, Republicans do not have the power to filibuster the legislation, meaning the bill would require only a simple majority to pass through the Senate. But in the 50-50 upper chamber, Democrats would need all their members — and the two Independents who caucus with them — to move it to Biden’s desk. Manchin, alone, can block it.  

Pelosi and House Democrats have long been resigned to the reality that their version of the reconciliation package is dead in the Senate. Still, the Speaker is holding out hope that some smaller version will move while Democrats control the two chambers. 

“Everything that was in the [House] reconciliation bill is great. So if we just have some of it, that’ll be very good, and we look forward to that,” Pelosi said.  

“But I just don’t know. As I think you know from the dynamic around here, the Senate negotiation is very close[ly] held.”

Tags Biden Charles Schumer Joe Manchin Nancy Pelosi reconciliation bill social spending and climate package

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