House sets up Friday votes for Biden agenda
House Democrats are now planning to vote Friday on their long-sought social spending package as well as the bipartisan infrastructure bill as they rush to deliver on President Biden’s agenda after disappointing state election results earlier this week.
The House Rules Committee met late Thursday night to advance the final text of the social spending legislation.
Next, according to Democratic sources familiar with the plan, the House will convene at 8 a.m. Friday to debate and vote on the package, titled the Build Back Better Act. A vote to clear the bipartisan infrastructure bill — which has stalled in the House since its Senate passage in August due to progressive resistance — will follow.
The House already completed floor debate on the bipartisan infrastructure bill in late September, when Democratic leaders had first hoped to clinch a deal on the two measures.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team have been laboring for more than a month to pass both the social spending package and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but have repeatedly had to delay House floor action due to stubborn internal divisions over strategy.
The Friday votes would come three days after Democrats suffered a disappointing loss in the Virginia gubernatorial election — the first time in 12 years that Democrats lost statewide, and only a year after Biden had carried the state by 10 points.
And in New Jersey, another diverse blue state, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy only narrowly won reelection in a race that wasn’t expected to be so close.
The electoral setbacks on Tuesday have heightened Democrats’ anxiety about their prospects in next year’s midterm elections, where Republicans only have to flip five seats to take back the House and just one to control the Senate.
In a sign of the high stakes for his agenda, Biden made calls Thursday night to House Democrats to urge support for the social spending package, according to a White House official. Biden did not advocate for specific timing, however.
House Democratic leaders spent the day trying to iron out the remaining issues to round up the votes for the social spending package, which includes an extension of the child tax credit, universal preschool, four weeks of paid family and medical leave, and tax credits to incentivize climate change initiatives.
Democratic leaders made a late change Thursday night to their deal to lower prescription drug prices to clarify the drafting of the original legislative text. According to a source familiar with the process, the compromise will add an additional year of exclusivity before Medicare will be able to negotiate prices for certain complex drugs known as biologics, moving the total from 12 years to 13 years.
Democrats also made a late change to raise the cap on the state and local tax deduction from $10,000 to $80,000, and to have that limit be in place at that level through 2030. A previous version of the bill released Wednesday would have set the cap at $72,500 through 2031.
Other issues that Democratic leaders were working furiously to resolve Thursday night included immigration and concerns from centrists about having enough time to review the legislative text and independent analyses of the bill’s fiscal impact.
Three members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Pelosi late Thursday night to discuss the immigration provisions, which currently include providing certain immigrants with work permits and protection from deportation. It’s not yet clear if the immigration provisions will pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian, who determines whether bills comply with the upper chamber’s arcane budget reconciliation rules that permit circumventing the filibuster.
Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) tweeted after meeting with Pelosi that they “continue to explore all options,” but were not drafting new legislative language.
At least five centrist Democrats have also demanded in recent days that they have enough time to read the massive legislation as well as a formal analysis on the final text from the Congressional Budget Office.
“What I’d like to do is be a reasonable legislator and understand the full context of the bill as well as how much it’s going to cost taxpayers,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, said earlier Thursday.
Pelosi cited an analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation, which estimated that the social spending package’s revenue measures would raise $1.5 trillion over a decade, excluding an additional $650 billion in savings from the IRS tax enforcement and prescription drug pricing provisions.
Aside from immigration, the Senate is likely to make additional changes before the bill is signed into law. Some senators have offered a different proposal for the state and local tax deduction, and key centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) has expressed opposition to including paid family leave.
—Updated at 11:28 p.m. Brett Samuels, Naomi Jagoda and Peter Sullivan contributed.