WASHINGTON — President Biden, his aides and his allies in Congress face a sprint in September to secure a legislative victory that could define his early presidency.
Democrats are racing against the clock after party leaders in the House signed a deal this week to advance the two-track approach that Mr. Biden hopes will overhaul the federal government’s role in the $4 trillion economy. That agreement sets a potentially dangerous vote on part of the agenda on September 27: a two-pronged deal on roads, broadband, water pipes and other physical infrastructure. It also urged House and Senate leaders to step up their efforts to finalize within that same window a larger Democrat-only bill to fight climate change, expand access to education and invest heavily. in workers and families.
If the party’s factions can bridge their differences over time, they could deliver a signature legislative feat for Biden, akin to the New Deal or Great Society, funding dozens of programs for Democratic candidates and the president to campaign over the months. come.
If they fail, Biden could fail both halves of his economic agenda, at a time when his popularity is dwindling and few, if any, of his other top priorities have a chance of passing Congress.
Mr Biden finds himself at a perilous moment seven months into his term in office. His withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has turned into a chaotic race to evacuate tens of thousands of people from the country by the end of the month. After throwing a party at the White House on July 4 to “declare independence” from the Covid-19 pandemic, he has seen the Delta variant rampage through unvaccinated populations and hospitalizations and death rates from the virus soar in states like Florida.
The president’s approval ratings have fallen in recent months, even on an issue that was an early strength of his tenure: the economy, where some recent polls show more voters disapprove of Mr. Biden’s performance.
The country is enjoying what is likely to be the strongest year of economic growth in a quarter of a century. But consumer confidence has fallen due to rapidly rising prices for food, gasoline and used cars, along with shortages of home appliances, medical devices and other products due to pandemic-induced global supply chain disruptions.
Workers haven’t come back to open jobs as quickly as many economists had hoped, causing long waits at restaurants and elsewhere. Private forecasters have lowered their growth expectations in the second half of the year, citing supply constraints and the threat of the Delta variant.
White House economists still expect strong job growth for the remainder of the year, and an overall growth rate well ahead of what all forecasters had anticipated at the start of 2021, before Mr. Biden announced a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. sent by Congress. But the White House economics team has lowered internal growth forecasts for this year, citing supply restrictions and a possible consumer response to the virus’ re-spread, a senior administration official said this week.
Mindful of that downgrade, and of what White House economists say will be a major drag on economic growth next year as stimulus spending dries up, government officials have mounted a multi-week attack to pressure both moderate and progressive Democrats in Congress to pass spending laws that officials say could help revitalize the recovery — and potentially change the story of Mr Biden’s difficult late summer.
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Biden’s importance to the package for Mr. Biden was clear on Tuesday, as the president anticipated a speech on Afghanistan’s evacuation efforts to praise the House of a move that paves the way for a range of votes on his broader agenda.
“We are one step closer to truly investing in the American people, positioning our economy for long-term growth and building an America that outshines the rest of the world,” said Mr. Biden.
Many steps still need to be taken before Mr Biden can sign both bills – but his party has only given itself a few weeks to finalize them. The infrastructure law has been written. But the House and Senate must agree on spending programs, revenue increases and the overall cost of the bigger bill, meeting the wishes of progressives who see a generational opportunity to expand government to tackle inequality and curb climate change. balance, and moderates who have pushed for a smaller package and opposed some tax proposals to pay for it.
It’s a timeline reminiscent of what Republicans set themselves in the fall of 2017, when they rushed a package of nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts to President Donald J. Trump’s desk without a single Democratic vote.
Democratic leaders say they have spent months laying the groundwork for the party to act quickly. The committee’s leaders have been told to complete their work by September 15.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon has released discussion versions of proposals to fund the $3.5 trillion in budget reconciliation spending — the larger bill that belongs only to Democrats — by raising taxes on high earners and corporations. On Wednesday, he gave detailed details of a plan to raise taxes on the profits that multinationals earn and book abroad.
“I am encouraged by where we are,” said Mr. Wyden in an interview.
Mr. Wyden has consulted with government officials, other prominent Senate Democrats such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mark Warner of Virginia and his House counterpart, Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, who heads the Ways and Means Committee. Other key Democrats say they are also aware of resolving differences not only between moderates and liberals, but also between the House and Senate.
“We are writing a bill with the Senate because it makes no sense to pass a bill that doesn’t pass the Senate in the interest of getting things done,” California Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. “We don’t want to go as slow as the slowest ship, but we also don’t want to underutilize any resource.”
As part of an agreement to secure the votes needed to approve the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint on Tuesday, Ms. Pelosi promised centrist and conservative Democrats that she would only adopt a reconciliation package that had the support of all 50 Senate Democrats and approved the Senate’s strict rules governing the accelerated process.
“I’m not here to pass messaging bills — I’m here to pass bills that actually become law and help the American people,” said Florida Representative Stephanie Murphy, one of the Democrats who initially announced she’s not in favor. would be from the budget. “The reality is that we are governing in a bicameral Congress where we also have to work with the Senate, so I think this is the most efficient and effective way to get results.”