Energy & Environment

Democrats surprised, caught off guard by ‘framework’ deal

Several Senate Democrats on Thursday said that they hadn’t seen a “framework” for how to pay for their sweeping social spending bill and appeared to be caught off guard by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) announcement of a deal between the Senate, House and White House.

Schumer, speaking at a press conference and separately with reporters, described it as a deal on the “menu of options” that Democrats will use to pay for the eventual bill, which will cover climate change policies, health care and a host of other party priorities.

Schumer said negotiators will still need to decide how high to go, a nod to disagreements over the price of the package, which liberals say should have a floor of $3.5 trillion.

But several Democrats — including key votes, members of leadership and senators on the panel responsible for coming up with the bill’s funding sources — said they hadn’t yet seen the framework and didn’t know what’s in it.

“No, I haven’t seen it,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, though he predicted that he would.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters he had “no idea” what was in the framework and questioned how much it moved the ball forward.

“We’ve been through this a million times. There are many many approaches as to how you can raise money … so if that’s what the menu is, nothing particularly new I think,” Sanders said.

Sanders added hours later that he had subsequently seen the framework but that there was “not a whole lot” new from what the House and Senate panels had disclosed as possible pay-fors.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) described the framework as “good news” but then acknowledged that a reporter’s surface-level description of the deal was also as much as he knew about what might be in it.

“Everything you said is everything I know,” Casey said.

The deal, according to Schumer, was worked out between House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) about the range of possible options for paying for the spending bill.

But members of Wyden’s committee said they haven’t seen what was agreed to.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a member of the Finance panel, told reporters that he didn’t have the “foggiest idea” what was in the framework.

“I’m almost as anxious to get that information as you are,” Warner added.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), the No. 4 Senate Democrat and member of the Finance Committee, said members of the panel hadn’t worked out an agreement.

“We don’t have an agreement. We basically on [the] Finance Committee have gone through a list of things and what they would raise,” Stabenow said, describing the framework as a “menu of choices.”

“We have to start with what the options are and then see what we can agree on,” Stabenow said.

Asked where Democrats had landed on raising the corporate rate, Stabenow added: “I can’t tell you that because there’s been no decision on that.”

The announcement by Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of the framework comes at a time when Democrats are eager to project unity as they face a rocky stretch amid days of high-profile public infighting.

The House is heading toward a vote next week on a roughly $1 trillion Senate-passed infrastructure bill that progressives have threatened to sink because it’s not moving alongside the $3.5 trillion bill.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are still struggling to figure out what top-line figure unites all 50 of their members after Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have said they can’t support $3.5 trillion. Manchin told reporters on Wednesday night that Biden asked a group of House and Senate moderates to give him a top-line number that they could support.

For the framework to pass muster, Democratic leadership as well as Neal and Wyden will also need to win over those members on their suggested ways to pay for the eventual bill and rule out what can’t get 50 votes in the Senate and near unity in the House.

Asked about the framework, a Sinema aide told The Hill, “We haven’t seen anything or signed off on anything.”

Manchin, leaving a bipartisan lunch, said that he had also not seen the “framework.”

“I haven’t seen anything,” Manchin said. “We don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Updated 2:10 p.m.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bob Casey budget reconciliation Charles Schumer Climate change Debbie Stabenow Dick Durbin Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Mark Warner Nancy Pelosi Richard Neal Ron Wyden taxes

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