WASHINGTON — Five House committees will begin formally drafting their pieces on Thursday of the Democrats’ far-reaching social policy and climate change bill, which would spend a staggering $3.5 trillion over the next decade — and bring in the same amount in taxes and other revenue boosters – to reweave the social safety net and move the country away from fossil fuels.
The products of the design sessions, which could take several grueling days, will be processed later this fall into a final bill that could be one of the most important measures to reach the House of Representatives in decades.
“What I want people to know is that this bill is for you,” California Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday. “If you are a woman with children at home and you want to go back to work; if you have people with disabilities at home and in home care; if your kids are small and you want universal pre-K; children learn, parents earn; if someone in your family is sick and you need family and medical leave, paid; the list goes on.”
Democrats plan to push through the legislation using a process known as reconciliation, which shields fiscal measures from filibusters and allows them to pass with a simple majority if they adhere to strict rules. The maneuver leaves the party little room for defects given the narrow margins of control in Congress.
Republicans are united in opposition to the upcoming bill, and corporate and wealthy lobbyists are also against it. They only need to peel away three or four House Democrats — or a single Senate Democrat — to cut the effort.
“This week, as Democrats push their reckless $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending agenda, let’s remember that American families and Main Street businesses will bear the brunt of these devastating tax increases,” Republicans said. the House Ways and Means Committee, which will begin drafting the hefty portion of the bill Thursday, Friday and next week.
The panel starts this week on the spending side before moving on to the more difficult task of tax increases to pay for it next week. Among the items on the extensive agenda: providing up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave; extension of tax credits to pay for childcare and elderly care; raising the wages of nannies; employers require employees to automatically enroll in individual retirement accounts or 401(k) plans; and expanding Medicare coverage to include dental, vision, and hearing benefits.
The portion of the Education and Labor Committee bill, also pending Thursday, would make kindergarten universal for 3- and 4-year-olds; fund two years of tuition-free community college and increase the value of Pell Grants; make funds available to rebuild and modernize school buildings; expand work training programmes; and expanding child nutrition programs supported on an emergency basis during the pandemic.
The Natural Resources Committee, which has partial responsibility for climate change programs, will seek to increase fees for fossil fuel companies that explore and drill public lands and waters; expand the rental of offshore sites for wind energy; spend up to $3.5 billion on a new civilian and tribal climate corps; and increase funding for wildfire control, climate resilience and adaptation to a warmer planet.
Smaller pieces of the bill will be prepared by the science and small business committees.
Senate Democrats, expected to skip the public drafting phase, have gathered behind closed doors to try to flesh out their version of the bill and put it forward directly.
They plan to submit a proposal to the Senate’s top law enforcement officer as early as Friday to legalize various groups of undocumented immigrants, including those brought into the country without authorization when they were children. It is up to the MP to determine whether specific measures under Senate rules qualify for inclusion in the final bill, which should be limited to policies that directly affect government revenue.
Emily Cochrane reporting contributed.