Officials, lawmakers express optimism on infrastructure, spending vote
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday said he spent the weekend negotiating a deal with Democrats to once again include the lowering of prescription drug prices in a social spending framework, a sign the party is still working out major provisions days ahead of when Democratic lawmakers hope to try for another vote on the matter.
House Democrats are eyeing Tuesday as the day to pass a bill on the framework and a bipartisan infrastructure measure. House Democratic leaders told committees they had to finish any changes to the spending bill by Sunday and that the House Rules committee could meet as soon as Monday to consider the pared-down $1.7 trillion package.
Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, told host Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he and other Democrats are working this weekend to “strengthen” the social spending package and add provisions that will help lower the cost of prescription drugs, after such initiatives were left out of the White House’s framework last week due to internal disagreements between moderates and progressives.
He said the goal of adding a prescription drug pricing plan to the bill is “not easy stuff,” but emphasized the importance of lowering costs.
Other Democrats reportedly agree. According to reporting from Politico, a group of Congressional Democrats and White House officials met this weekend to draft a prescription drug proposal to be added to the reconciliation package
Top Biden administration officials spent Sunday touting progress and expressing optimism despite the ongoing negotiations.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” that negotiators are “the closest we have ever been” to passing the infrastructure bill and reconciliation package.
He said the administration is “very optimistic” that the pieces of legislation will have the votes to pass this week, contending that Biden released the framework last week “because he believes that it will pass the House and the Senate and can get to his desk.”
President Biden made one more pitch to Democratic lawmakers for the spending package on Thursday after releasing the draft proposal with hopes of solidifying a deal before boarding Air Force One and jetting off to Europe to attend the G20 summit and the COP26. That goal, however, was blocked by progressives when they refused again to commit to an agreement before fully reviewing the legislative text of the bill.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Sunday characterized the last minute trip to Capitol Hill as a win, pointing to progressives’ verbal support for the framework.
“What happened is that the progressives came out unanimously supporting what was in the framework… they had to look at the language, which was released on Friday. And now he can say– he can go to COP, to Glasgow, and say that he has 100% unanimity in the Democrat Caucus and House. And that is really bringing people together over this agenda,” Granholm told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The energy secretary did, however, signal that more can be done to address prescription drug prices and paid family leave, which was also eliminated from the framework, telling Todd “the fight is not over.”
She suggested that some Republicans may be willing to get on board with a separate paid family leave initiative if it’s not included in the final version of the spending package.
Despite the optimism, the text of the reconciliation package, which currently stands at $1.75 trillion, according to the White House framework, is still being finalized.
There’s also the matter of getting all Senate Democrats on board. Moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), both of whom have held up negotiations for weeks, have not yet expressed support for the White House’s reconciliation framework, though they did sound positive last week.
On the House side, progressives are standing firm in their promise not to hold a vote on the infrastructure bill unless it is accompanied by the reconciliation package. But before departing the chamber Thursday, progressives lowered their bar for moving the social spending package despite there still being a series of ongoing negotiations within the “family benefits package.”
“I don’t think it’ll take that long,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said as lawmakers headed home late last week.