Biden pushes US$1.75 trillion US spending deal ahead of Europe trip

US President Joe Biden (centre), with Representative Jamie Raskin (right), arrives at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 28, 2021. Biden is meeting Democratic Party leaders on his signature social spending legislation,after he will address the nation before leaving for summits in Europe, the White House said. — AFP pic
US President Joe Biden (centre), with Representative Jamie Raskin (right), arrives at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 28, 2021. Biden is meeting Democratic Party leaders on his signature social spending legislation,after he will address the nation before leaving for summits in Europe, the White House said. — AFP pic

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WASHINGTON, Oct 28 — US President Joe Biden announced today a revised US$1.75 trillion social spending plan that he is confident Democrats will support, ending weeks of wrangling and delivering a political victory hours before he departs for twin summits in Europe.

Biden failed in his original goal of securing a vote in Congress, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority, before going to Rome for meetings with Pope Francis and G20 leaders, then a UN climate summit in Glasgow.

Instead, his dramatic last-minute intervention will present Democrats with a deal too good to refuse, senior aides believe.

Putting the full prestige of his presidency on the line, Biden went up to Capitol Hill to unveil the framework agreement to Democratic leaders.

He was then to deliver an address to the American people from the White House, before heading to the airport to board Air Force One.

The White House said Biden’s compromise outline of the legislation would pour US$1.75 trillion into education, childcare, clean energy and other social services.

This is much less than the original US$3.5 trillion price tag Biden and left-leaning Democrats wanted. However, this would still represent a major win a year after Biden, 78, defeated Donald Trump with a promise to heal America’s “soul.”

Weeks of Democratic feuding over both the details and costs had threatened to sink the bill, simultaneously dooming a second initiative meant to invest US$1.2 trillion in America’s crumbling infrastructure.

Biden is now sure he has Congress ready to accept his deal, although the timing of a vote remains up to the Democratic speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

“Everybody’s on board,” he told reporters as he arrived on Capitol Hill to meet party leaders. “It’s a good day.”

A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “The president believes this framework will earn the support of all 50 Democratic senators and pass the House.”

Seeking to make history

Another official said the two bills in play will “make historic investments” and that the White House is “confident” in finally getting Democrats to unite.

In his speech at 11:30am (1530 GMT), Biden will “speak to the American people about the path forward for his economic agenda and the next steps to getting it done,” another White House official said.

Democrats enjoy a rare period of controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency. However, the margins are so tight — with only a one vote advantage in the Senate and a handful in the House — that enacting major legislation has proved tortuous.

Biden has been repeatedly frustrated as just two moderate Democrats in the Senate held up his social spending ambitions, while left-leaning Democrats in the House blocked the infrastructure bill.

Responding to criticism over the watering down of the pending deal, a White House official said that even at US$1.75 trillion, Biden’s framework still represents “historic investments in the United States.”

This will be “the most transformative investment in children and caregiving in generations, the largest effort to combat climate change in history, and historic tax cut for tens of millions of middle class families, and the biggest expansion of affordable health care in a decade,” an official said. — AFP

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