Saturday, December 4, 2021

House prepares for debate, vote after supporting Biden’s bill

WASHINGTON (AP) – The House prepares to debate and vote on President Joe Biden’s revised $ 1.85 trillion domestic policy package, as well as the accompanying $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill, Democrats aim to show voters what the party can deliver your priorities.

With a flood of recent adjustments, Democrats have added key provisions to what has grown to a massive 2,135-page package – adding a new paid family leave program, work permits for immigrants, and changes to state and local tax deductions.

A vote is possible on Thursday, as Democrats seek to finalize the signing of the presidential package after protracted negotiations on Capitol Hill were partially blamed for the party’s dismal election results in leading states this week.

“Bring this to my table!” Biden said in a speech at the White House on Wednesday.

Late Wednesday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Thursday that Biden’s big bill on social services and climate change programs, as well as a thinner bipartisan infrastructure package that has stalled due to deliberations, is possible in the House of Representatives on Thursday. The vote, however, could also last until Friday, aides and MPs said.

After months of negotiations, Democrats are desperately trying to implement Biden’s proposals following dismal election results for the party in Virginia, a warning that their power may be in jeopardy over the medium term next year.

A majority of voters in Virginia said protracted negotiations in Washington over Biden’s agenda were an important factor in their vote, so the blame fell on Capitol Hill as Democrats argued for months over the details of the package.

“We have to produce,” Virginia-based Democratic Senator Tim Caine told reporters at the Capitol. “We have to deliver results for the people.”

The House Rules Committee met late Wednesday for a hearing that lasted after midnight to review the updated text – a decisive step ahead of a lengthy debate in the room that could start Thursday and escalate into Friday.

Democrats are working hard to postpone their differences, particularly with Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Cinema of Arizona, and are voting on Biden’s big bill and related infrastructure package, which has stalled.

The new family leave provision is expected to include four weeks of paid leave for childbirth, recovery from serious illness, or caring for family members, less than the 12-week program envisioned, but all of this will be paid for in full with income from others. sources.

Biden reluctantly turned down a reduced paid leave offer from the White House structure last week after Manchin turned it down. But Democrats, who have lobbied that paid leave has been a party’s priority for decades, have continued to push for it.

Rep. Richard Neal, Massachusetts, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said it was “a policy that will finally give workers and their families peace of mind” in the face of hardship.

On another unresolved issue, Democrats compromised to partially lift the $ 10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, which especially affects New York, California, and other high tax states, and was adopted as part of the tax era. Trump 2017. plan.

While the elimination of the so-called SALT deduction cap is a priority for legislators in several northeastern states, advocates of progress wanted to prevent the super-rich from benefiting. According to the plan, the $ 10,000 deduction limit will be increased to $ 72,500 for 10 years starting in tax year 2021.

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And the newly added immigration provision will create a new program for the roughly 7 million immigrants who are in the country without legal status, allowing them to apply for work and travel permits in the United States within five years. It will also allow the government to use unused visas to allow people to enter the United States.

Resolving the immigration problem was one of the last challenges on the road to completing the Biden package project. Biden has set aside $ 100 billion in immigration funding, which will increase the total package from $ 1.75 trillion to $ 1.85 trillion – although that could fall if the position is passed by the Senate. Lawmakers plan to present their arguments to a Senate MP in the coming days, hoping the changes will be in line with Senate rules, stakeholders said.

“We must have something for our immigrants,” said Rep. Judy Chu, California.

Both paid family leave and changes in immigration law have met with opposition from Manchin, whose support remains decisive in the 50-50 Senate, where Biden has no extra votes. The bill meets with unified opposition from the Republicans.

Manchin wants Democrats to spend more time negotiating and has criticized the paid vacation announcement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strategy now seems to be aimed at passing the most credible bill in her House, and then giving the Senate the opportunity to adjust or delete parts with which they disagree.

“We must strive to find common ground in legislation,” Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues.

Biden’s $ 1.75 trillion package will help large numbers of Americans pay for health care, education, parenting, and care for the elderly in their homes. It will also provide about $ 555 billion in tax breaks that encourage cleaner energy and electrified vehicles, the country’s largest commitment to fighting climate change.

Most of its costs will come from higher taxes for people making more than $ 10 million a year and large corporations, which will now face a 15% minimum tax in an effort to prevent large businesses from claiming so many deductions that they end up pay zero taxes.

Earlier this week, Democrats announced another major addition to the package – a plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs for most seniors by caping Medicare Part D out-of-pocket spending at $ 2,000 and lowering the price of insulin to no more than $ 35. dose.

Rep. Colin Allred, Texas, said internal party debates are not only harmful to public opinion, but “also harmful in terms of showing that our democracy works.” On Wednesday he said: “We must show that we can govern.”

Some moderate Democrats in the House have said they want to see a financial estimate of Biden’s overall package from the Congressional Budget Office before the vote.

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Associated Press writers Kevin Fracking, Alan Fram, and Colleen Long contributed to this report.

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