Democrats shift focus to spending package after infrastructure passage
Democrats are shifting their focus to passing their social spending package now that the House has given final approval to the bipartisan infrastructure bill, though the party still has a handful of issues to work through before declaring success on a key part of President Biden’s legislative agenda.
A top White House official and Democratic lawmaker touted the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Sunday, after the House two days earlier voted 228-206 to advance the $1.2 trillion piece of legislation that next goes to Biden’s desk.
The vote capped off months of tireless negotiations between the White House and Capitol Hill that were dragged out because of disagreements within the Democratic Party, at times leading to skepticism regarding whether the legislation would make it to Biden’s desk at all.
Now with a win under their belts, Democrats are focusing their attention on the $1.75 trillion social spending package, dubbed the Build Back Better Act, which includes investments to expand social programs and address climate change.
White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told guest host Bill Hemmer on “Fox News Sunday” that the party has to pass the social spending package “now,” arguing that the funding will help ease inflationary pressures, bolster the supply chain and “invest in the human capital in this country all at one time.”
Biden, however, is facing some criticism within his own party for working to pass the pair of spending packages.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) caused a stir last week when she told The New York Times that Biden was voted into office by the American public to “be normal and stop the chaos” and not to be FDR — a reference to former President Franklin Roosevelt, who helped pull the U.S. out of economic uncertainty with New Deal policies after the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Richmond rejected that characterization of Biden’s presidency on Sunday, telling Hemmer that the president was elected to “do big things,” pointing to getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control and helping the country’s economic recovery.
He said Biden “has an ambitious plan for the American People, for the American economy, and he’s going to invest in them,” adding, “If you want to describe it as FDR-like, then it’s FDR-like.”
Democrats are now plowing ahead with the social spending package after moderate and progressive lawmakers struck a late-night deal on Friday, easing a logjam the party had been grappling with for weeks.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus, moderate Blue Dog Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus agreed to hold a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and advance the social spending package that night.
The agreement came after progressives had refused to hold a vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill unless it was accompanied by a vote on the social spending package. A bloc of moderate members, however, said they would not weigh in on the package until the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score of the bill, which must be in line with the White House’s estimates.
As part of the deal, moderates committed to voting for the social spending package if the CBO score, which is expected to be released later this month, matches up with the White House’s numbers. The pledge was enough to bring most progressives on board.
Thirteen Republicans joined Democrats in passing the bill, while six progressive Democrats bucked their party and voted against the bill as a protest in favor of the larger legislation.
Moderates are now holding firm on their requirement that the CBO score be in line with White House estimates, though they are confident the statistics will match up later this month.
Moderate Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), who was central to the party’s negotiations, told co-host Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the caucus received preliminary data from the Treasury Department, the White House and the CBO this week and expects “it to all match up” with the initial estimates.
“We expect the information that we received to be in line with what we receive from the Treasury Department, and we’ll at that point, I’m sure, be ready to move forward,” he added.
Even with the CBO numbers, however, the party still has a handful of issues it must work through before approving the spending package and sending it to Biden’s desk. Some provisions in the package may be nixed or amended once it makes its way to the Senate.
Temporary work permits and protection from deportation for certain immigrants will be under examination by the Senate parliamentarian, who is tasked with determining if the bill is in line with arcane budget reconciliation rules, which will allow Democrats to buck a potential Republican filibuster by only requiring a simple majority for passage.
Additionally, paid family leave, which is a key priority among the American people and a number of Democrats, is still in limbo.
On Sunday, Richmond told host Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the Senate does not currently have the votes to pass the package with the initiative included.