Biden makes his case to House Democrats for a $1.75 trillion spending framework
A MARTINEZ, HOST:
President Biden made his case this morning to House Democrats for a $1.75 trillion framework of social safety net and climate spending. But Biden, who leaves for Europe later today for a pair of summits, left the timing of the votes on a resulting bill up to House leaders. A senior administration official told reporters Biden believes this framework will earn the support of all 50 Democratic senators and pass the House. But the package does not include key progressive priorities, including paid family leave, free community college or measures to lower the costs of prescription drugs. Joining us now to discuss all of this is NPR's Deirdre Walsh who covers Congress. Deirdre, no paid family leave, no community college, no measures to lower the cost of prescription drugs - is the White House being optimistic about winning progressive support for this?
DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: You know, they say they're - the president says he's optimistic, but it's really unclear. President Biden, who met and huddled with House Democrats behind closed doors this morning, went through his framework line by line, according to Democrats in the meeting. On his way in, he was asked if Senator Bernie Sanders, a leading progressive who's been critical about some of these things coming out of the plan, was on board. And the president said, quote, "everybody's on board." But I will say the progressives coming out of the meeting are still being pretty cautious. They say they still want the full text of the bill.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Progressive Caucus, said the president was impressive in terms of his knowledge of the bill and going through all the numbers. But she, again, is saying she still wants to see all the details in the text. She said progressives are going to huddle now to see whether they're going to be OK to move ahead with a vote today, potentially, on the separate hard infrastructure bill. That's the $1.2 trillion bill that passed the Senate in August. But she did say, quote, "it's a bit of a leap of faith."
MARTINEZ: All right, so we know what's not in Biden's framework, but what is in it that maybe could appeal to progressives and moderates alike?
WALSH: Well, Democratic leaders and the president want the conversation to change about what's in it as opposed to what got cut. And there's still a lot of big progressive priorities the Democrats could tout. There's universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds for six years. There's child care support for about 20 million children, also for six years. There's an extension of the very popular child tax credit and the earned income tax credit for another year. On climate, there's $555 billion. This is for things like clean energy tax credits for electric vehicles, clean energy production. There's a program for Civilian Climate Corps. These are items that should help the president and - as he heads off, very soon today, to a climate summit later this week in Glasgow.
Maryland Congressman - Democratic - Mfume told me that the president told Democrats it was important to have unity before he leaves for this trip. On health care, the framework extends Affordable Care Act tax credits through 2025, and it does extend Medicare coverage for seniors for hearing care only, not for vision and dental, as Sanders wanted.
MARTINEZ: OK. Now, a senior administration official told reporters that President Biden's framework would win support of all 50 Democrats - all Senate - all 50 Senate Democrats. What does that mean? Does that mean they have buy-in from Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona?
WALSH: Well, that's certainly what the president himself was signaling in this meeting, according to a source in the room. He said that he's there to say that he has all 50 Democrats. But other Democrats are saying that he's almost there, and he's still working on it. And we should note, we don't have public statements from those key Senate moderates yet. And he's going to need all 50 because Democrats are using a process that needs total unity from their party to get around a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
MARTINEZ: And one more thing. The Democrats set a deadline of Sunday to pass that separate $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. What are the consequences if they do not do that?
WALSH: House Speaker is urging Democrats to back a vote on that today. It's unclear whether they will happen. The president was pretty blunt in this meeting, telling people that he really needs all of these things to determine his - the majorities for his presidency and for going ahead for the midterms.
MARTINEZ: NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thank you very much.
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