(WASHINGTON) — In a last-minute push before heading overseas, and after months of tortured negotiations, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a “framework” of his economic plan in an effort to get all Democrats behind his social spending and climate policy agenda.
“No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus. And that’s what I ran on,” Biden said in remarks from the White House East Room.
Before taking the world stage, Biden put public pressure on members of his own party, especially House progressives, to come together to support what he pitched as a “fundamental gamechanger,” laying out the details of the $1.75 trillion social spending package Biden presented to House Democrats earlier Thursday morning.
“I ran for president saying it was time to reduce the burden on the middle class to rebuild the backbone of this nation working people in the middle class. It couldn’t have been any clearer — the very moment I announced my candidacy. That’s why I wrote these bills in the first place and took them to the people,” Biden said, using the presidential bully pulpit, but as the day progressed it still wasn’t clear he had the Democratic support he needs.
“I campaigned on and the American people spoke. This agenda that’s in these bills is what 81 million Americans voted for. More people voted than any time in American history,” Biden said. “Their voices deserve to be heard. Not denied, or worse, ignored.”
He acknowledged progressives’ concessions made but said “any single part of this framework would fundamentally be viewed as a fundamental change in America.”
“Taken together, they’re truly consequential,” he said.
Biden said both the already Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill the House still needs to vote on and the separate framework he’s proposed come as the nation faces an “inflection point” he said was years overdue.
“Somewhere along the way, we stopped investing in ourselves, investing in our people,” he said. “We risk losing our edge as a nation.”
The president touted the proposed expansion to Medicaid services in the net social spending package so, he said, families “can get help from well-trained, well-paid professionals to take care of their parents at home.”
“Quite frankly, what we found is that this is more popular or as popular as anything else we’re proposing because the American people understand the need. It’s a matter of dignity and pride for our parents,” Biden added.
He also took the chance to promote his climate policy agenda ahead of the COP26 UN global climate summit, saying his plan will “grow the domestic industries, create good-paying union jobs” and address “long-standing environmental injustices.”
“We’ll build up our resilience for the next storm, drought, wildfires and hurricanes that indicate a blinking code red for America and the world,” he said, noting atural disasters have cost $99 billion in damage to the U.S. in the last several years. Setting up a question to those who argue his plan costs too much, “We’re not spending any money to deal with this?”
He said his plan would not raise taxes on the middle class but “would continue cutting taxes for the middle class,” and instead raise them on the nation’s wealthiest Americans and corporations, whom Democrats argue haven’t been paying their fair share.
Biden can’t afford to lose a single vote in the Senate and only three votes in the House. He delayed his foreign trip to head to the Hill and lobby members of his own party to back the legislation he campaigned on.
Earlier, he pulled up to the Capitol shortly after 9 a.m., and then flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, responded only with “It’s a good day” to a reporter asking what his message is to House progressives who don’t trust Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — holdouts throughout the extended and often chaotic bargaining.
As he headed to the closed-door meeting, ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott asked, “Mister President, do you have a deal?” but Biden merely waved and said “How are you? Good to see you all.”
When reporters started shouting, “Do you think you have enough of a framework to get progressives to support the infrastructure bill?” Biden responded “Yes.”
About an hour later, as he emerged, Biden told reporters, “I think we’re going to be in good shape,” but declined to answer more questions as he left the Capitol.
Biden was met inside the meeting with multiple standing ovations, sources told to ABC News, along with several moments where members stood up, shouting, “Vote, vote, vote!”
Democratic leaders are eager to put the infrastructure bill on the floor as soon as Thursday, but Pelosi — who doesn’t call for votes unless she knows has the support for passage — hasn’t officially called for one yet.
It’s unclear if the president’s public pressure campaign did anything to sway progressives’ minds.
Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., recapped the meeting to reporters and said Biden made a “compelling case for both bills” but offered “nothing different than what I knew before” on the social spending framework the White House released.
“He did not ask for a vote on the bill today,” she said, regarding the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill. “The speaker did. He did not. He said he wants votes on both bills and said what we do on these two bills is going to be determinative for how the world sees us.”
Asked directly whether her caucus is ready for a vote, Jayapal said, “We have had a position of needing to see the legislative text and voting on both bills and we’ll see where people are,” before heading into a huddle with the group threatening to vote “no” on the infrastructure bill until a deal is made on the larger package.
After Biden’s visit, Pelosi separately entered that progressives’ caucus meeting.
The White House teased his remarks on the domestic agenda ahead his international trip, saying he is “delivering” on his promises to rebuild the middle class.
“After hearing input from all sides and negotiating in good faith with Senators Manchin and Sinema, Congressional Leadership, and a broad swath of Members of Congress, President Biden is announcing a framework for the Build Back Better Act,” said a White House statement that notably did not say he had an agreement.
“President Biden is confident this is a framework that can pass both houses of Congress, and he looks forward to signing it into law. He calls on Congress to take up this historic bill – in addition to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – as quickly as possible,” the statement said.
While progressives are united in paying for the package with tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, many have argued they want to see the legislation’s text before committing to a vote, signaling they could continue to stall the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Pelosi wanted passed before the month’s end, maybe as early as Thursday.
The White House said “the framework will save most American families more than half of their spending on child care, deliver two years of free preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old in America, give more than 35 million families a major tax cut by extending the expanded Child Tax Credit, and expand access to high-quality home care for older Americans and people with disabilities.”
The Child Tax Credit expansion, which Biden has proposed extending until 2025, would now be only until the end of 2022. Paid family and medical leave, which Biden had originally proposed to be 12 weeks and then scaled back to four weeks, appeared to have been dropped altogether after Manchin objected, despite progressives fighting back. Two free years of community college that Biden had promised is not included.
It also claimed it represents “the largest effort to combat climate change in American history” and “the biggest expansion of affordable health care coverage in a decade,” saying it would “reduce premiums for more than 9 million Americans by extending the expanded Premium Tax Credit, deliver health care coverage to up to 4 million uninsured people in states that have locked them out of Medicaid, and help older Americans access affordable hearing care by expanding Medicare.”
An expansion of Medicare to cover dental and vision, a top priority of Sen. Bernie Sanders, is not in the framework.
And, the White House said, “it is fully paid for … by making sure that large, profitable corporations can’t zero out their tax bills, no longer rewarding corporations that shift jobs and profits overseas, asking more from millionaires and billionaires, and stopping rich Americans from cheating on their tax bills.”
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