With the calendar slipping toward a new deadline, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is warning that “difficult decisions must be made” to trim President Joe Biden’s expansive plans for reimagining the nation’s social service programs and tackling climate change.
Democrats are laboring to chisel the $3.5 trillion package to about $2 trillion, a still massive proposal that would be paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. And with no votes to spare, they must somehow satisfy the party’s competing moderate and progressive lawmakers needed for any deal.
It’s all raising tough questions that Biden and his party are rushing to answer by the deadline for passage, Oct. 31.
Should Biden keep the sweep of his proposals — free childcare and community college; dental, vision and hearing aid benefits for seniors — but for just a few years? Or should the ideas be limited to a few, key health and education programs that could become more permanent? Should the climate change effort go bold — a national clean energy standard — or stick with a more immediate, if incremental, strategy?
“The fact is, that if there are fewer dollars to spend there are choices to be made,” Pelosi said Tuesday at the Capitol.
Republicans are dead set against the package. So Biden and his party are left to deliberate among themselves along familiar lines, centrists and moderates, with all eyes still on two key holdouts, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, whose votes are crucial in the evenly divided Senate.
Time is growing short for the president on what has been his signature domestic policy initiative, first unveiled in March and now having consumed much of his fitful first year in office.
Biden’s approval rating is down after a turbulent summer, and impatience is growing, particularly among House lawmakers heading into tough elections and eager to show voters an accomplishment — unlike senators whose staggered six-year terms leave only some of them facing reelection in 2022.
At the White House, Biden agrees that “this is really the point where decisions need to be made,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.