By ALAN FRAM and LISA MASCARO
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden stepped up his bid to push his multitrillion-dollar domestic plans through Congress Wednesday, lunching with Senate Democrats a day after party leaders announced a compromise for pouring federal resources into infrastructure and fighting climate change.
“Is this my homecoming?” he said, greeting people as returned to the Capitol — his home as a Delaware senator for 36 years — for his first working meeting with lawmakers there since becoming president. Then he added about the budget business at hand, “We’re going to get this done.”
Late Tuesday, top Democrats announced an agreement among themselves on plans to spend a mammoth $3.5 trillion over the coming decade on a wide range of domestic priorities, an expansion Biden has proposed financing with tax boosts on the rich and big corporations. Included in the proposal would be a top priority for progressives — an expansion of Medicare, the health insurance program for older Americans, to include vision, dental and hearing coverage.
Underscoring the political complexities, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin stopped short of saying Wednesday that he would back all the policy initiatives that Biden and top Democrats are pursuing. “I really haven’t seen everything yet,” Manchin, one of the chamber’s more conservative Democrats, told a reporter.
Republicans could well oppose the effort unanimously, criticizing its costs and likely tax increases. Democrats will need support from all their lawmakers in the 50-50 Senate and could lose no more than three in the House.
Separately, a bipartisan group of senators is working to flesh out a related measure that would cost around $1 trillion — including around $579 billion in new spending — on roads, water systems and other more traditional infrastructure projects, another Biden priority. Biden and that group had agreed to an outline of that measure last month, and bargainers are hoping to craft a compromise bill in coming days.
Together, the infrastructure and social proposals fall a bit short of the roughly $4.5 trillion Biden had proposed to help communities and families in every corner of the country. That means some increases Biden has proposed will have to be curtailed or cut.
The Democrats’ goal is to push a budget resolution reflecting Tuesday’s agreement through the House and the Senate before lawmakers leave for their August recess. Budget passage would let Democrats move a follow-up spending bill that actually finances the party’s priorities with just 50 votes and Vice President
Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote in the Senate, not the 60 votes Republicans could otherwise require with a bill-killing filibuster.
The actual spending legislation would likely not start moving through Congress until the fall.
On Wednesday, Biden also plans to push for public support of his infrastructure proposal by hosting bipartisan governors and mayors at the White House. He plans to emphasize the bipartisan aspects of the proposal, as senators work to finalize details for a Thursday deadline.
He’ll call attention to some of the proposals on which Democrats and Republicans can agree, including removing lead pipes, extending access to high-speed internet, improving transit and rebuilding roads and bridges. Biden will also speak about the benefits his policies would have for local residents, according to an administration official who shared details with the AP on condition of anonymity.
The budget will include language calling for no tax increases on people making less than $400,000 a year, a Biden demand, or on small businesses. The provision was described by a Democratic aide who insisted on anonymity to discuss the negotiations.
On infrastructure, lawmakers are aiming to wrap up the details by Thursday despite opposition from business leaders, outside activists and some GOP senators over how to pay for the $1 trillion plan, which includes the $579 billion beyond regular expenditures already funded by gas taxes and other sources.