Hoyer says deal is imminent, as early as Tuesday
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted Tuesday that a long-sought Democratic agreement on President Biden’s domestic policy agenda is imminent, saying a deal could be announced as soon as Tuesday afternoon.
“The president’s working very hard on this, and the Speaker’s been working very hard on it,” Hoyer said during a press call. “And so there’s a lot of work that’s been done and I think it could come together relatively quickly in the next few hours.”
Such a timeline appears highly optimistic — some lawmakers said improbable — given the number of sticking points remaining as Democratic leaders race to secure a deal on a social spending package at the center of Biden’s economic policy agenda.
Outstanding disagreements between liberals and moderates over a Medicare expansion, paid family leave benefits and climate initiatives have all prolonged the debate and threatened to alienate one faction or another, jeopardizing Biden’s top domestic priority. Some lawmakers said it will likely take a week to iron out those differences.
“We’re close. We’re really close. And I think if we can just take another week and finalize all these details and get the language done on both the bills, I think we’ll be in good shape,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Hoyer’s comments came shortly after House Democrats huddled in the Capitol basement, where party leaders briefed lawmakers on the latest developments in the scramble to secure a deal on the social benefits package.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told lawmakers that roughly 90 percent of the package is finalized. And she urged members of all stripes to “embrace” the emerging agreement, even if it doesn’t meet their every ideal.
“No bill is everything,” she said. “We cannot miss this opportunity.”
While there is no real deadline for securing an agreement, there is a growing sense of urgency to get it done. The president is leaving Washington Thursday for Europe, where a global climate summit is set to begin on Oct. 31, and Democrats are racing to win a deal before then so the president can tout America’s commitment to the issue on the world stage.
Behind Biden, House Democrats have championed a $3.5 trillion package to expand health care services, extend benefits to workers and families and tackle climate change. But resistance from Senate centrists has forced leaders to scale back — or cut altogether — some portions of the bill, leading to high-stakes negotiations over which programs will get a haircut, and which will be slashed altogether.
Amid that debate, liberals in the House have blocked a separate, $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which passed through the Senate in August, in order to force the Senate centrists to commit to the larger social spending package. Only then, the liberals say, will they back the more popular public works bill.
Democrats would like to have a vote on that bipartisan bill this week, both to give Biden a boost and to help Democratic candidates in gubernatorial contests next week in Virginia and New Jersey.
It remains unclear how far along the social benefits legislation must have advanced to win the progressives’ support for the infrastructure bill. Jayapal has said there must be a floor vote on the “family” benefits bill before liberals will back the bipartisan infrastructure proposal — a message she amplified this week.
“We’re checking with our caucus, but that’s what I’m hearing from … the majority of members in our caucus is: the two bills together,” she said. “If we get all the other agreements, if we need to vote on the BIF [infrastructure bill] first, that’s OK. But on the same day.”
Other liberals, however, appear to be opening up to the idea that a “framework” agreement would suffice — if Biden and party leaders gave assurances that the eventual bill would pass through both chambers. Hoyer on Tuesday acknowledged those dynamics.
“I think they’re going to need a framework and … an expression that gives them confidence that in fact the framework [that] will be passed by the House will also be passed by the Senate. I think that’s what we’re going to need, and that’s what we’re working towards,” Hoyer said.
“I think it could come in the next few hours.”
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