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Biden Announces Slimmed-Down $1.75B Spending Bill, Still Awaits Key Congressional Support

President Joe Biden's signature issue of the year is at another crossroads.

President Joe Biden

Biden introduced the second part of his modified infrastructure agenda to Congress, he announced in a public address on Thursday. The $1.75 trillion bill focuses on support for senior citizens aging in place and early childhood and secondary education, paid for by tax increases on corporations and a surtax on the richest 0.02% of individuals.

A $1.2 trillion bill that focuses on physical infrastructure such as roads, transit and energy has already passed the Senate, but House Democrats have insisted that it can only pass when paired with a separate bill focusing on social spending. The former bill includes around $550B in new spending over the next eight years, paid for with a combination of unspent emergency relief funds and bolstered tax enforcement.

Included in the social spending bill are $500B in expenditures on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation measures, including tax credits for companies producing solar panels, wind farms and electric vehicles, as well as funding for a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, Biden said.

The bill also includes universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds for the next six years, a one-year extension of the expanded childcare tax credit and a permanent change to make childcare tax credits refundable. Biden spoke of the necessity to reduce childcare costs in order to bring mothers back into the workforce — an issue that has only worsened since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Biden said the current framework of both bills would neither increase taxes for any individuals earning less than $400K per year nor increase the federal deficit. Instead, the social spending bill would be funded by enforcing a 15% minimum tax rate for corporations reporting more than $1B in profit, a 1% tax on corporate stock buybacks and a surtax of 5% on all income beyond $10M for the wealthiest 0.02% of Americans, with an additional 3% added for all income beyond $25M, NPR reports.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema

Biden urged House Democrats to take up and pass the social spending bill — which Democrats expect to pass the Senate through the process of budget reconciliation so as to not require any Republican votes — on Thursday so that he can take the new law to a meeting of the Group of 20 in Rome and a meeting of the United Nations Climate Council in Scotland over the weekend, The Washington Post reports

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wouldn't commit to passing the two bills until Congress has had a chance to read the legislative text, and their willingness to sign off isn't guaranteed, NPR reports. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, told reporters while exiting a CPC meeting immediately after Biden's address that a Thursday vote would likely come without representatives seeing the full legislative text, and if that is the case, he didn't think the bills would pass.

A crucial stumbling block to any advance deal is the CPC not having faith that centrist Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema would stick to such a deal, Cohen told reporters. If House progressives reject the current framework, it could also be due to elements that were removed from the spending bill in order to increase the likelihood that Sinema and Manchin would approve it. 

Among the elements removed at the supposed behest of Manchin and Sinema were paid family leave, free community college and measures to lower the cost of prescription medication, NPR reports. As of 12:30 p.m. ET, neither Manchin nor Sinema had publicly committed to the new social spending bill, with CPC members holding firm on their stance to vote against the infrastructure bill until that happened.