By LISA MASCARO and ALAN FRAM
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and congressional Democrats have agreed to a “framework” to pay for their huge, emerging social and environment bill, top Democrats said Thursday, but they offered no details.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announced the development as Biden administration officials and Democratic congressional leaders negotiated behind the scenes on the mammoth package of spending and tax initiatives.
Democratic leaders and President Joe Biden have wanted the measure to total some $3.5 trillion over 10 years.
But the party has been divided over the final size and many of the details, and there has been no public word that agreements have been reached on any of those crucial questions. The statements by Schumer and Pelosi left unclear whether administration and congressional bargainers had made decisions actually paring down their options for financing the bill, or were simply working off a broad menu of options that had already existed.
The leaders’ comments also came with the House planning to begin considering a separate $1 trillion package of road and other infrastructure projects on Monday. Pelosi has agreed to that schedule to assuage party moderates who badly want that legislation passed but are leery of supporting the larger $3.5 trillion measure.
Progressives are threatening to defeat the smaller public works measure, and it is unclear whether Democrats can push it through the closely divided House. To win over progressives and make sure both bills can pass, Democratic leaders are trying to reach agreement on a final version of the huge social and environment bill that moderates would support.
“The White House, the House and the Senate have reached agreement on a framework that will pay for any final negotiated agreement,” Schumer told reporters at a news conference with Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Minutes later, Schumer told reporters, “It’s a menu of options, and it will pay for whatever the agreement on the investments comes to.”
Pelosi said, “What we said was the House, the Senate and the White House came to an agreement on how we can go forward in a way to pay for this.”
Moderate Democrats, most prominently Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have demanded that the $3.5 trillion price tag be reduced.
Democrats have proposed paying for the measure mostly with tax increases on the rich and corporations. But lawmakers have disagreed over details of those levies, and other disputes remain over initiatives to boost health care, climate change and other initiatives.
The leaders addressed reporters a day after Biden met with over a dozen top Democrats in an effort to narrow their differences.
“The president has given us a path, a better view for our country,” Pelosi said. “We intend to stay the course and pass the bill as soon as possible.”