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    The Biggest Kink in America’s Supply Chain: Not Enough Truckers

    WASHINGTON — Facing more than $50,000 in student debt, Michael Gary dropped out of college and took a truck driving job in 2012. It paid the bills, he said, and he could reduce his expenses if he lived mostly out of a truck.But over the years, the job strained his relationships. He was away from home for weeks at a time and could not prioritize his health: It took more than three years to schedule an optometry appointment, which he kept canceling because of his irregular work hours. He quit on Oct. 6.“I had no personal life outside of driving a truck,” said Mr. Gary, 58, a resident of Vancouver, Wash. “I finally had enough.”Truck drivers have been in short supply for years, but a wave of retirements combined with those simply quitting for less stressful jobs is exacerbating the supply chain crisis in the United States, leading to empty store shelves, panicked holiday shoppers and congestion at ports. Warehouses around the country are overflowing with products, and delivery times have stretched to months from days or weeks for many goods.A report released last month by the American Trucking Associations estimated that the industry is short 80,000 drivers, a record number, and one the association said could double by 2030 as more retire.Supply-chain problems stem from a number of factors, including an extraordinary surge in demand for goods and factory shutdowns abroad. But the situation has been compounded by a shortage of truckers and deteriorating conditions across the transportation sector, which have made it even harder for consumers to get the things they want when they want them.The phenomenon is rippling across the economy, weighing on growth, pushing up prices for consumers and depressing President Biden’s approval rating. But the White House has struggled with how to respond.On Tuesday, it announced a series of steps aimed at alleviating supply-chain problems, such as allowing ports to redirect other federal funds to efforts to ease backlogs. As part of the plan, the Port of Savannah could reallocate more than $8 million to convert existing inland facilities into five pop-up container yards in Georgia and North Carolina to help ships offload cargo more quickly.That followed an announcement by Mr. Biden last month that major ports and private companies would begin moving toward 24-hour operation in an effort to ease the gridlock. But early results suggest that trucking remains a major bottleneck in that effort, compounding congestion at the ports.The directors of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach said that, at least initially, few additional truckers were showing up to take advantage of the extended hours.Gene Seroka, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said his port had told the White House in July that about 30 percent of the port’s appointments for truckers went unused every day, largely because of shortages of drivers, the chassis they use to pull the loads and warehouse workers to unload items from trucks.“Here in the port complex, with all this cargo, we need more drivers,” Mr. Seroka said.The $1 trillion infrastructure bill that the House passed last week could help mitigate the shortage. The legislation includes a three-year pilot apprenticeship program that would allow commercial truck drivers as young as 18 to drive across state lines. In most states, people under 21 can receive a commercial driver’s license, but federal regulations restrict them from driving interstate routes.But industry experts said the program was unlikely to fix the immediate problem, given that it could take months to get underway and the fact that many people simply do not want to drive trucks.Mr. Biden said last month that he would consider deploying the National Guard to alleviate the trucker shortage, although a White House official said the administration was not actively pursuing the move.Meera Joshi, the deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said the agency had focused on easing the process of obtaining a commercial driver’s license after states cut back licensing operations during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency has also extended the hours that certain drivers can work. “They are the absolute backbone of a big part of our supply chain,” Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, said about truckers at a White House briefing on Monday. “We need to respect and, in my view, compensate them better than we have.”The shortage has alarmed trucking companies, which say there are not enough young people to replace those aging out of the work force. The stereotypes attached with the job, the isolating lifestyle and younger generations’ focus on pursuing four-year college degrees have made it difficult to entice drivers. Trucking companies have also struggled to retain workers: Turnover rates have reached as high as 90 percent for large carriers.In response, the companies have raised their wages. The average weekly earnings for long-distance drivers have increased about 21 percent since the start of 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last year, commercial truck drivers had a median wage of $47,130.On any given day this summer, dozens of container ships waited outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to unload their cargo.Stella Kalinina for The New York TimesThe Port of Los Angeles. Trucking remains a major bottleneck in the effort to reduce congestion at U.S. ports.Stella Kalinina for The New York TimesTo pay for those increases, trucking companies are raising their rates. Jon Gold, the vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, said the driver shortage has contributed to steeper costs for retailers, which are trickling down to consumers and pushing up some of the prices at stores.“We are seeing cost increases at every step of the way in the transportation supply chain,” Mr. Gold said. “From ocean to truck to rail, costs are increasing.”Derek J. Leathers, the president and chief executive of Werner Enterprises in Omaha, which employs about 9,500 drivers, said its services cost about 15 percent more than prepandemic levels as driver salaries and equipment costs have climbed.The company is trying to hire about 700 truck drivers — up from about 300 before the pandemic — after demand swelled and retirements left the company short on workers. It has increased driver compensation by about 20 percent since the start of 2020 and expanded the number of driving academies it operates.“I’ve been in the business for over 30 years,” Mr. Leathers said. “I definitely think this is the tightest driver market I’ve seen in my career.”Understand the Supply Chain CrisisCard 1 of 5Covid’s impact on the supply chain continues. More

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    Biden’s Plans Raise Questions About What U.S. Can or Cannot Afford to Do

    Democrats are debating whether doing nothing will cost more than doing something to deal with climate change, education, child care, prescription drugs and more.WASHINGTON — As lawmakers debate how much to spend on President Biden’s sprawling domestic agenda, they are really arguing about a seemingly simple issue: affordability.Can a country already running huge deficits afford the scope of spending that the president envisions? Or, conversely, can it afford to wait to address large social, environmental and economic problems that will accrue costs for years to come?It is a stealth battle over the fiscal future at a time when few lawmakers in either party have prioritized addressing debt and deficits. Each side believes its approach would put the nation’s finances on a more sustainable path by generating the strongest, most durable economic growth possible.The debate has shaped a discussion among lawmakers about what to prioritize as they scale back Mr. Biden’s initial proposal to dedicate $3.5 trillion over 10 years to programs and tax cuts that would curb greenhouse gas emissions, make child care more affordable, expand access to college and lower prescription drug prices, among other priorities. The smaller bill under discussion could increase the total amount of government spending on all current programs by about 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent over the next decade, depending on its size and components. Mr. Biden has proposed fully paying for this with a series of tax increases on businesses and the wealthy — including raising the corporate tax rate, increasing taxes on multinational corporations and cracking down on wealthy people who evade taxes — along with reducing government spending on prescription drugs for older Americans.As the negotiations continue, Democrats are considering cutting back or jettisoning programs to shave hundreds of billions of dollars off the final price to get it to a number that can pass the House and Senate along party lines. One key part of Mr. Biden’s climate agenda — a program to rapidly replace coal- and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear energy — is likely to be dropped from the bill because of objections from a coal-state senator: Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia.The discussions have focused attention on Washington’s longstanding practice of using budgetary gimmicks to make programs appear to be paid for when they are not, as well as opening a new sort of discussion about what affordable really means.The debate about what the United States can afford used to be pegged to its growing budget deficits and warnings that the government, which spends much more than it brings in, could saddle future generations with mountains of debt, sluggish economic growth, runaway inflation and enormous tax hikes. But those concerns receded after no such crisis materialized. The country experienced tepid inflation and low borrowing costs for a decade after the 2008 financial crisis, despite increased borrowing for economic stimulus under President Barack Obama and for tax cuts under President Donald J. Trump.In its place is a new debate, one focused on the long-term costs and benefits of the government’s spending decisions.Many Democrats fear the United States cannot afford to wait to curb climate change, help more women enter the work force and invest in feeding and educating its most vulnerable children. In their view, failing to invest in those issues means the country risks incurring painful costs that will slow economic growth.“We can’t afford not to do these kinds of investments,” David Kamin, a deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said in an interview.Take climate change: The Democratic think tank Third Way estimates that if Congress passes an aggressive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, U.S. companies will invest an additional $1.3 trillion in the construction and deployment of low-emission energy like wind and solar power and energy-efficient technologies over the next decade, and $10 trillion by 2050. White House officials say that if the country fails to reduce emissions, the federal government will face mounting costs for relief and other aid to victims of climate-related disasters like wildfires and hurricanes.“Those are the table stakes for the reconciliation and infrastructure debate,” said Josh Freed, the senior vice president for climate and energy at Third Way. “It’s why we think the cost of inaction, from an economic perspective, is so enormous.”But to some centrist Democrats, who have expressed deep reservations about spending $2 trillion on a bill to advance Mr. Biden’s plans, “affordable” still means what it did in decades past: not adding to the federal debt. The budget deficit has swelled in recent years, reaching $1 trillion in 2019 from additional spending and tax cuts that did not pay for themselves, before topping $3 trillion last year amid record spending to combat the coronavirus pandemic.Mr. Manchin says he fears too much additional spending would feed rising inflation, which could push up borrowing costs and make it harder for the country to manage its budget deficit. He has made clear that he would like the final bill to raise more revenue than it spends in order to reduce future deficits and the threat of a debt crisis. Mr. Biden says his proposals would help fight inflation by reducing the cost of child care, housing, education and more.A few economists agree with Mr. Manchin, warning that even fully offsetting spending and tax cuts could fuel inflation. Michael R. Strain, a centrist economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who supported many of the pandemic spending programs, said in an interview this year that additional spending that stoked consumer demand would “exacerbate pre-existing inflationary pressures.”President Biden visited the Capitol Child Development Center in Hartford, Conn., on Friday. He has warned that if Congress does not act to invest in children, the United States will face slower economic growth for generations to come.Sarahbeth Maney/The New York TimesRepublicans, who have vowed to fight any version of the spending bill, argue that the national economy cannot afford the burden of taxes on high earners and businesses that Democrats have proposed to help offset their plans. They say the increases will chill growth when the recovery from the pandemic recession remains fragile.“The tax hikes are going to slow growth, flatten out wages and both drive U.S. jobs overseas and hammer small businesses,” said Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee. “There will be a significant economic price to all this spending.”U.S. Inflation & Supply Chain ProblemsCard 1 of 6Covid’s impact on supply continues. More

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    As Democrats Trim Spending Bill, Some Americans Fear Being Left Behind

    President Biden had an ambitious agenda to remake the economy. But under the duress of negotiations and Senate rules, he has shelved a series of proposals, some of them indefinitely.WASHINGTON — Democrats in Congress are curbing their ambitions for President Biden’s economic agenda, and Jennifer Mount, a home health care aide, worries that means she will not get the raise she needs to pay more than $3,000 in medical bills for blindness in one eye.Edison Suasnavas, who came to the United States from Ecuador as a child, has grown anxious about the administration’s efforts to establish a pathway to citizenship, which he hoped would allow him to keep doing molecular tests for cancer patients in Utah without fear of deportation.And Amy Stelly wonders — thanks to a winnowing of Mr. Biden’s plans to invest in neighborhoods harmed by previous infrastructure projects like highways that have harmed communities of color — whether she will continue to breathe fumes from a freeway that she says constantly make her home in New Orleans shudder. She has a message for the president and the Democrats who are in the process of trying to pack his sprawling agenda into a diminishing legislative package.“You come up and live next to this,” Ms. Stelly said. “You live this quality of life. We suffer while you debate.”Mr. Biden began his presidency with an expensive and wide-ranging agenda to remake the U.S. economy. But under the duress of negotiations and Senate rules, he has shelved a series of his most ambitious proposals, some of them indefinitely.He has been thwarted in his efforts to raise the federal minimum wage and create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He has pared back investments in lead pipe removal and other efforts that would help communities of color. Now, as the president tries to secure votes from moderates in his party, he is reducing what was originally a $3.5 trillion collection of tax cuts and spending programs to what could be a package of $2 trillion or less.That is still an enormous spending package, one that Mr. Biden argues could shift the landscape of the economy. But a wide range of Americans who have put their faith in his promises to reshape their jobs and lives are left to hope that the programs they are banking on will survive the cut; otherwise, they face the prospect of waiting years or perhaps decades for another window of opportunity in Washington.“The problem now is this may be the last train leaving the station for a long time,” said Jason Furman, an economist at the Harvard Kennedy School who was a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama. “It could be five, 10, 20 years before there’s another shot at a lot of these issues.”President Biden entered the White House with an expensive and ambitious agenda to remake the U.S. economy. He has pared back those plans.Tom Brenner for The New York TimesMr. Furman and other former Obama administration officials saw firsthand how quickly a presidential agenda can shrink, and how presidential and congressional decisions can leave campaign priorities unaddressed for years. Mr. Obama prioritized an economic stimulus package and the creation of the Affordable Care Act over sweeping immigration and climate legislation in the early years of his presidency.Stimulus and health care passed. The other two did not. A similar fate now could befall Mr. Biden’s plans for home care workers, paid leave, child care subsidies, free prekindergarten and community college, investments in racial equity and, once again, immigration and climate change.If Mr. Biden is able to push through a compromise bill with major investments in emissions reduction, “he’s got an engine that he’s working with” to fight climate change, said John Podesta, a former top aide to Mr. Obama and President Bill Clinton. “If he can’t get it, then I think, you know, we’re really kind of in soup, facing a major crisis.”Republicans have criticized the spending and the tax increases that would help fund it, claiming that the Democratic package would hurt the economy. Democrats “just have an insatiable appetite to raise taxes and spend more money,” Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, said on “Fox News Sunday” this week. “It would kill jobs.”Amy Stelly said she wondered whether she would continue to breathe fumes from the Claiborne Expressway, which is near her home in New Orleans.Edmund D. Fountain for The New York TimesThe threat of Republican filibusters has blocked Mr. Biden’s plans for gun and voting-rights legislation.For now, though, the president’s biggest problem is his own party. He is negotiating with progressives and moderates over the size of the larger tax and spending package. Centrists like Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have pushed for the price tag to fall below $2 trillion. Mr. Manchin has said he wants to limit the availability of some programs to lower- and middle-income earners. Progressive groups are jockeying to ensure that their preferred plans are not cut entirely from the bill.The House has proposed investing $190 billion in home health care, for example, less than half of what Mr. Biden initially asked for. If the price tag continues to decrease, Democrats would almost certainly have to choose between two concurrent aims: expanding access to older Americans in need of caretakers or raising the wages of those workers, a group that is disproportionately women of color.Another proposal included in Mr. Biden’s original infrastructure bill was an investment of $20 billion to address infrastructure that has splintered communities of color, although the funding was slashed to $1 billion through a compromise with Republican senators.Ms. Stelly thought the funds, plus the president’s sweeping proposals to address climate change — which might also be narrowed to appease centrist Democrats — would finally result in elected officials addressing the highway emissions that have filled her lungs and darkened the windows of her home.Ms. Stelly, an urban designer, has since limited her expectations. She said she hoped the funding would be enough to at least issue another study of the highway, which claimed dozens of Black-owned businesses and the once-thriving neighborhood of Tremé.The Claiborne Expressway bisects the residential neighborhood of Tremé in New Orleans. Ms. Stelly said she hoped the funding would be enough for another study on the effects of the highway.William Widmer for The New York TimesSome Democrats are eager to pack as much as they can into the bill because they fear losing the House, the Senate or both in the midterm elections next year. Mr. Podesta has urged lawmakers to see the package as a chance to avoid those losses by giving Democratic incumbents a batch of popular programs to run on, and also giving the president policy victories that could define his legacy.Mr. Biden has promoted some of his policies as ways to reverse racial disparities in the economy and lift families that are struggling in the coronavirus pandemic from poverty.Ms. Mount, who immigrated to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago, said she was appreciative of her job helping older Americans and the disabled eat and bathe and assisting them in their homes. But her wages for her long hours — working about 50 hours a week for $400, at times — have made it effectively impossible to stay on top of payments for basic needs.She had hoped Mr. Biden’s plan to raise the minimum wage or salaries for home health care aides meant she would no longer need to choose between her electric bills and her medical expenses. She said the treatment had improved her blindness, but without a salary increase for her field, she is more convinced that she will be working for the rest of her life.“I have to make a choice: Do I go to the grocery store or pay my mortgage? Do I pay my water bill or pay my electric bill?” said Ms. Mount, who lives in Philadelphia. “With that, retirement looks B-L-E-A-K, all uppercase. What do I have there for retirement?”When Mr. Biden initially proposed two years of free community college, Ms. Mount, 64, was encouraged about future opportunities for her six grandchildren in the United States. But she fears that effort could also be cut.“That’s politics from on top,” she said. “At times, they always seem detached.”Protesters gathered in front of the White House in August in support of the DACA program, which protects young immigrants from deportation.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesSome measures that Democrats have long promised voters have run afoul of Senate rules that dictate which policies the administration should include in bills that use a special process to bypass the filibuster, including a minimum-wage increase and a plan to offer citizenship to immigrants brought to the United States as children.When the Senate parliamentarian rejected the strategy, it made Mr. Suasnavas, who has lived in the United States since he was 13, consider the prospect of eventually being deported; he would have to leave behind his job as a medical technology specialist, and his 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.“We’ve been having the hopes that politicians in Washington — Democrats and Republicans — will see not only the economic impact we can bring to the country but also we’re still people with families,” said Mr. Suasnavas, 35. “Our hearts have been broken so many times that it feels like another wound in your skin.” More

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    Biden Huddles With Democrats as Divisions Threaten His Agenda

    Democrats are nearing a make-or-break moment for President Biden’s agenda, with party divisions imperiling top-priority legislation and fiscal crises looming.WASHINGTON — President Biden huddled with congressional Democrats on Wednesday to try to break through a potentially devastating impasse over his multitrillion-dollar domestic agenda, toiling to bridge intraparty divisions over an ambitious social safety net bill and a major infrastructure measure as Congress raced to head off a fiscal calamity.Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are nearing a make-or-break moment in their bid to push through huge new policies, as an escalating fight between the progressive and moderate wings — and a multitude of other divisions within the party — threatens to sink their chances of doing so while they retain control in Washington.At the same time, even the basic functions of Congress — keeping the government from shutting down next week and from defaulting on its debt sometime next month — are in peril as Republicans refuse to support legislation that would both fund the government and increase the statutory cap on federal borrowing.The challenges are unfolding against a backdrop of mistrust and strife within Democratic ranks. Moderates are pressing for quick action on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill; progressives are demanding approval first of a far-reaching, $3.5 trillion domestic policy plan including vast new investments in climate, education, health and social programs.Without consensus on both, Democrats, who have minuscule majorities in the House and Senate, will not have enough votes to send either to Mr. Biden’s desk. That prospect has sown alarm at the top echelons of the party.On Wednesday, John D. Podesta, who held key White House roles under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, sent a memo to every Democrat on Capitol Hill imploring them to scale back the $3.5 trillion plan in the interest of compromise, warning that doing otherwise would risk sinking both bills and costing the party control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.“You are either getting both bills or neither — and the prospect of neither is unconscionable,” he wrote. “It would signal a complete and utter failure of our democratic duty, and a reckless abdication of our responsibility. It would define our generation’s history and show that, when our time came, we failed, both for Americans now and in the years to come.”Mr. Biden’s long day of meetings with lawmakers reflected a recognition that “there needs to be a deeper engagement by the president” to bring Democrats together, said Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary.The president, she added, “sees his role as uniting and as working to bring together people over common agreement and on a path forward.”That path is exceedingly murky as Democrats careen toward a tangle of fiscal and political deadlines with no discernible public strategy in place, but party leaders remained publicly sanguine on Wednesday..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}“We are on schedule — that’s all I will say,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters after meeting with Mr. Biden for more than an hour. “We’re calm, and everybody’s good, and our work’s almost done.”But Democrats conceded that the process was painful.“When you’ve got 50 votes and none to lose, and you’ve got three to spare in the House, there’s a lot of give and take — that’s just the way it is,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who is chairman of the Budget Committee. “It’s tough. But I think at the end of the day, we’re going to be fine.”At the crux of the stalemate is a leadership commitment to a group of moderate Democrats that the House would take up the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill by Monday. Liberal House Democrats say they will vote down the measure until their priority legislation first clears both the House and Senate.Those Democrats say the infrastructure bill, which omitted most of their top priorities including major provisions to combat climate change, cannot be separated from the $3.5 trillion package, which contains many of those elements, such as a shift to electric power. Beyond the climate portions, the social policy measure would, among many other things, extend child care and child tax credits, expand free prekindergarten and community college and fortify Medicare.But key centrists in the Senate have balked at that package, which Democrats plan to push through using a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation that shields it from a filibuster. Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona both voted to begin work on a $3.5 trillion measure, but have since warned they will not support spending that much.On Wednesday, Mr. Biden urged the holdouts to specify exactly what they would support, so Democrats could coalesce behind a plan that could pass.“Find a number you’re comfortable with, based on what you believe the needs that we still have, and how we deliver to the American people,” Mr. Manchin said, describing the president’s request. “He was very straightforward in what he asked us to do.”The internal disputes are escalating just as Congress is facing urgent deadlines. Without congressional action, at 12:01 a.m. next Friday, federal funding will lapse, shutting down the government. And at some point in October, the Treasury Department will reach its statutory borrowing limit, forcing it to halt some payments to international creditors, Social Security recipients and government contractors.Amid those looming crises, Republican leaders are practically taunting Democrats, refusing to back legislation coupling a debt-limit increase and a stopgap spending measure.“Don’t play Russian roulette with the economy; step up and raise the debt ceiling,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said on Wednesday, even as he vowed not to give Democrats a single Republican vote.Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leaders, is encouraging Democrats to raise the debt ceiling even as he tells his own caucus to vote against it.Sarahbeth Maney/The New York TimesAnd House Republicans on Wednesday urged their rank-and-file members to oppose the bipartisan infrastructure bill that they said had been “inextricably linked” to the reconciliation package.“Republicans should not aid in this destructive process,” the office of Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, warned in a notice calling for “no” votes.On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of former Treasury secretaries wrote to congressional leaders in both parties to express a “deep sense of urgency” to raise the debt limit. Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, offered a similar plea in a news conference.“No one should assume that the Fed or anyone else can protect the markets and the economy, fully protect, in the event of a failure to make sure that we do pay those debts when they’re due,” he said..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Beyond that issue, Democrats must find a way to salvage Mr. Biden’s agenda. They had hoped to emerge from Wednesday’s meeting with public commitments from key moderates including Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema to support a reconciliation bill, but by evening they still had no such statement from the two senators.Offering “Covid-safe” individually wrapped chocolate chip cookies bearing the presidential seal, Mr. Biden spent much of the day on Wednesday hosting groups of lawmakers in the Oval Office, beginning with Ms. Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader.He met with nearly two dozen senators and House members from across the ideological range of his party, including liberal leaders and some of the moderates who played key roles in negotiating the infrastructure bill.By Monday, leaders hope to reach agreement on a total price for the reconciliation measure, which will likely fall below the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, and an ironclad agreement on some key provisions that must be in the final package.So far, neither side is budging. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, accused more conservative Democrats of making “impulsive and arbitrary demands,” while setting unnecessary deadlines like the Monday infrastructure vote.“The package, the investments and the programs that we have in there are rather nonnegotiable. That’s why we are kind of at this impasse,” she said, adding, “We are at a moment, and a test of political will.”Representative Stephanie Murphy, a moderate from Florida, said it would be “really disappointing and embarrassing” if the infrastructure bill failed because of opposition from progressives.After her meeting with Mr. Biden, Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that “there isn’t a lot of trust” among Democrats, reiterating that liberals would follow through on their promise to vote against the infrastructure measure on Monday.But the list of moderate objections is long and varied. Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon wants a bill that spends less than $1 trillion over 10 years. Representative Ed Case of Hawaii has said he will not accept phasing in or phasing out of programs and tax measures to mask their true costs if made permanent. Representative Kathleen Rice of New York objects to the get-tough approach to curb prescription drug prices.And the disputes go beyond ideological differences. Representative Tom Suozzi of New York says he will not vote for any version that does not substantially reinstate the state and local tax deduction, a crucial issue for high-tax states. Representative Alma Adams of North Carolina says she will oppose the bill if it does not include tens of billions of dollars more for historically Black colleges and minority-serving institutions.Democrats across the ideological spectrum said forging consensus would be a tall order.“We’ve got a hectic few days ahead,” Representative Josh Gottheimer, a moderate from New Jersey, said after emerging from his negotiating session with Mr. Biden and other lawmakers.Catie Edmondson More

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    Biden's Presidential Agenda Rests on $3.5 Trillion Spending Bill

    A plan for the economy, education, immigration, climate and more binds disparate Democratic lawmakers, but the proposal risks sinking under its own weight.WASHINGTON — No president has ever packed as much of his agenda, domestic and foreign, into a single piece of legislation as President Biden has with the $3.5 trillion spending plan that Democrats are trying to wrangle through Congress over the next six weeks.The bill combines major initiatives on the economy, education, social welfare, climate change and foreign policy, funded in large part by an extensive rewrite of the tax code, which aims to bring in trillions from corporations and the rich. That stacking of priorities has raised the stakes for a president resting his ambitions on a bill that could fail over the smallest of intraparty disputes.If successful, Mr. Biden’s far-reaching attempt could result in a presidency-defining victory that delivers on a decades-long campaign by Democrats to expand the federal government to combat social problems and spread the gains of a growing economy to workers, striking a fatal blow to the government-limiting philosophy of President Ronald Reagan that has largely defined American politics since the 1980s.But as Democrats are increasingly seeing, the sheer weight of Mr. Biden’s progressive push could cause it to collapse, leaving the party empty-handed, with the president’s top priorities going unfulfilled. Some progressives fear a watered-down version of the bill could fail to deliver on the party’s promises and undermine its case for a more activist government. Some moderates worry that spending too much could cost Democrats, particularly those in more conservative districts, their seats in the 2022 midterm elections, erasing the party’s control of Congress.The legislation, which Democrats are trying to pass along party lines and without Republican support, contains the bulk of Mr. Biden’s vision to overhaul the rules of the economy in hopes of reducing inequality and building a more vibrant middle class. But its provisions go beyond economics.Democrats hope the package will create a pathway to citizenship for as many as eight million undocumented immigrants, make it easier for workers to form unions, and lower prescription drug costs for seniors. They want to guarantee prekindergarten and community college for every American, bolster the nation’s strategic competitiveness with China and stake an aggressive leadership role in global efforts to fight climate change and corporate tax evasion.The plan includes a large tax cut for the poor and middle class, efforts to reduce the cost of child care and expand access to home health care for older and disabled Americans and create the first federally guaranteed paid leave for American workers.Democrats hope the package will create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants brought to the United States as children.Carlo Allegri/ReutersIt is almost as if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had stuffed his entire New Deal into one piece of legislation, or if President Lyndon B. Johnson had done the same with his Great Society, instead of pushing through individual components over several years.“The president is on the cusp of achieving a major expansion in public education, one of the largest expansions of the social safety net, the largest investment in climate change mitigation” and overhauls in labor law and drug pricing, said Patrick Gaspard, a former Obama administration official who is now the president of the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}“Each one of these things is significant in its individual constituent parts,” he said, “but taken as a whole, it, I think, speaks to the remarkable opportunity that we have — these once-in-a-generation opportunities to set a course that creates growth for all, including and especially those who have been most vulnerable in this economy.”If the effort succeeds, Mr. Biden will have accomplished much of what he campaigned on in one fell swoop. Observers say he will carry a strengthened hand into global summits in October and November that are meant to galvanize the world around transitioning from planet-warming fossil fuels and ending the use of offshore havens that companies have long used to avoid taxation.White House officials say that the breadth of programs in the package form a unified vision for the United States’ domestic economy and its place in the world, and that the planks serve as a sort of coalition glue — a something-for-everyone approach that makes it difficult to jettison pieces of the plan in negotiations, even if they prove contentious.But the sheer scope of its contents has opened divisions among Democrats on multiple fronts, when Mr. Biden cannot afford to lose a single vote in the Senate and no more than three votes in the House.Centrists and progressives have clashed over the size of the spending in the legislation and the scale and details of the tax increases that Mr. Biden wants to use to help offset its cost. They are divided over prescription drug pricing, the generosity of tax credits for the poor, the aggressiveness of key measures to speed the transition to a lower-emission energy sector and much more.Even items that are not top priorities for Mr. Biden have opened rifts. On Friday, one of the party’s most outspoken progressives, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, took aim at a crucial priority of several top Democrats, including Senator Chuck Schumer, saying she would resist attempts to fully repeal a cap on deductions for state and local property taxes that would aid high earners in high-tax areas.If Mr. Biden’s party cannot find consensus on those issues and the bill dies, the president will have little immediate recourse to advance almost any of those priorities. Outside of a hard-fought victory on a bipartisan infrastructure package — which has passed the Senate but not yet cleared the House — Mr. Biden has found almost no reception from Republicans for his proposals. His economic, education and climate agendas, and perhaps even additional efforts to rebuild domestic supply chains and counter China, could be blocked by Republicans under current Senate rules for most legislation.Democrats hope to stake an aggressive American leadership role in global efforts to fight climate change.Kathleen Flynn/ReutersRepublicans say the breadth of the bill shows that Democrats are trying to drastically shift national policy without full debate on individual proposals.Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, complained repeatedly this week that Republicans and conservatives “believe that our government is wasting so much to kill so many American jobs.”Mr. Biden’s plan would “hook a whole new generation of the poor on government dependency,” he said.Biden administration officials say the bill’s contents are neither secret nor socialist. They say the plan tracks with the proposals Mr. Biden laid out in the 2020 campaign, in his first budget request and in an address to a joint session of Congress.“There is a through line to everything that we are advancing,” Brian Deese, who heads the White House National Economic Council, said in an interview, “from investments in education, to winning the clean energy economy of the future to restoring fairness in the tax code, that connects to how we make ourselves globally competitive in this next quarter of the 21st century.”.css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide to Mr. Biden who helped lead his presidential transition team, said the core of the bill went back much further: to a set of newsprint brochures that campaign volunteers delivered across Delaware in 1972, when Mr. Biden won an upset victory for a Senate seat.“He ran because he wanted to do all these things,” Mr. Kaufman said, both during his 1972 race and during his presidential campaign last year. But tackling so many things at once has exposed divisions among congressional Democrats, including this week, when Mr. Biden’s attempt to reduce prescription drug costs failed a House committee vote after three Democrats joined Republicans in disapproval.Party leaders are trying to balance the demands of liberals who already see a $3.5 trillion bill as insufficient for the nation’s problems and moderates, like Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who have balked at its overall cost and some of its tax and spending provisions.Many polls show the bill’s pieces largely fare well with voters, including independents and some Republicans. Margie Omero, a principal at the Democratic polling firm GBAO, which has polled on the bill for progressive groups, said the ambition of the package was a selling point that Democrats should press as a contrast with Republicans in midterm elections.“People feel like the country is going through a lot of crises, and that we need to take action,” she said.As they scuffle over the bill’s final cost and levels of taxation, Democrats have tried to find savings without discarding entire programs — by reducing spending on home health care, for example, instead of dropping it or another provision entirely.Progressive groups say that is a reason for lawmakers to not further reduce the size of the effort, worrying that scaled-back programs could undermine the case for broad government intervention to solve problems.The bill calls for expanding access to child care.Kathleen Flynn/Reuters“If the bill passes as is right now and we get a major sea change in the progressivity of the tax code, we build a serious infrastructure for, like, universal child care in this country, and we really, really sort of start to make progress toward a green economy, this is going to be a historic piece of legislation,” said Lindsay Owens, the executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative, which has pushed the administration to focus on shared prosperity that advances racial equity.If the bill is whittled down, she said, Mr. Biden risks “a situation in which we didn’t spend enough money on any piece to do it well.”“You don’t want half a child care system and a little bit of a greening of the economy in two sectors,” she added. “You really don’t want to do a lot of things poorly.”Administration officials insist that even if the bill fails entirely, other efforts by Mr. Biden — including executive actions and bipartisan measures now awaiting House approval after clearing the Senate — have reasserted the United States’ leadership on climate, competitiveness and confronting China. In some areas, though, Mr. Biden has little other recourse, like opening the pathway to citizenship for immigrants brought to the country as children.For now, the president continues to publicly set high expectations for a bill that aides say he sees as fundamental to demonstrating that democratic governments can deliver clear and tangible benefits for their people.“This is our moment to prove to the American people that their government works for them, not just for the big corporations and those at the very top,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday. He added, “This is an opportunity to be the nation we know we can be.” More

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    Biden's Infrastructure Plan: Scarcity of Skilled Workers Poses Challenge

    One estimate says the bill would add $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy over eight years, but without enough workers, efforts to strengthen roads and public transit could be set back.WASHINGTON — The infrastructure bill that President Biden hopes to get through Congress is supposed to create jobs and spur projects for companies like Anchor Construction, which specializes in repairing aging bridges and roadways in the nation’s capital.But with baby boomers aging out of the work force and not enough young people to replace them, John M. Irvine, a senior vice president at Anchor, worries there will not be enough workers to hire for all those new projects.“I’d be surprised if there’s any firm out there saying they’re ready for this,” said Mr. Irvine, whose company is hiring about a dozen skilled laborers, pipe layers and concrete finishers. If the bill passes Congress, he said, the company will most likely have to double the amount it is hiring.“We will have to staff up,” Mr. Irvine said. “And no, there are not enough skilled workers to fill these jobs.”Mr. Biden has hailed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill as a way to create millions of jobs, but as the country faces a dire shortage of skilled workers, researchers and economists say companies may find it difficult to fill all of those positions.The bill could generate new jobs in industries critical to keeping the nation’s public works systems running, such as construction, transportation and energy. S&P Global Ratings estimated that the bill would lift productivity and economic growth, adding $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy over eight years. But if there is not enough labor to keep up with the demand, efforts to strengthen the nation’s highways, bridges and public transit could be set back.“Do we have the work force ready right now to take care of this? Absolutely not,” said Beverly Scott, the vice chair of the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey found that 88 percent of commercial construction contractors reported moderate-to-high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers, and more than a third had to turn down work because of labor deficiencies. The industry could face a shortage of at least two million workers through 2025, according to an estimate from Construction Industry Resources, a data firm in Kentucky.The pandemic has compounded labor shortages, as sectors like construction see a boom in home projects with more people teleworking and moving to the suburbs. Contractors have also faced a scarcity of supplies as prices soared for products like lumber and steel.Job openings in construction have picked up at a rapid clip after the sector lost more than one million jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. According to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis, construction job openings have increased by 12 percent from prepandemic levels. But the sector is still down about 232,000 jobs from February 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.The issue underscores a perennial challenge for the skilled trades. Not enough young people are entering the sectors, a concern for companies as older workers retire from construction, carpentry and plumbing jobs. And although many skilled trade positions have competitive wages and lower educational barriers to entry, newer generations tend to see a four-year college degree as the default path to success.Infrastructure workers tend to be older than average, raising concerns about workers retiring and leaving behind difficult-to-fill positions. The median age of construction and building inspectors, for instance, is 53, compared with 42.5 for all workers nationwide. Only 10 percent of infrastructure workers are under 25, while 13 percent of all U.S. workers are in that age group, according to a Brookings Institution analysis.“The challenge is, how are we going to replace — not just grow, but replace — many of the workers who are retiring or leaving jobs?” said Joseph W. Kane, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “​A lot of people, especially younger people, just aren’t even aware that these jobs exist.”Community colleges, which offer a variety of vocational training programs, have suffered steep declines in enrollment. A recent estimate from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that community colleges were the hardest hit among all colleges, with enrollment declining by 9.5 percent this spring. More than 65 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment losses this spring occurred at community colleges, according to the report.John M. Irvine, a senior vice president at Anchor Construction, worries there will not be enough workers to hire for new projects.Alyssa Schukar for The New York TimesNicholas Kadavy, a third-generation mason who owns Nebraska Masonry in Lincoln, Neb., has seen his workload triple since April. He said his company had already scheduled out work until June 2022.He wants to hire more skilled masons to finish the projects sooner, but he can’t find enough people to fill the dozen positions he has open, even though he is willing to pay up to $50 an hour — twice what he offered before the pandemic. He checks his email daily, waiting for more applications to come in.“My biggest struggle is finding guys that want to work,” Mr. Kadavy said.Even when he does hear from applicants, Mr. Kadavy said, he is unable to hire many of them because they are not qualified enough. He was already seeing a shortage of skilled masons before the pandemic, he said, and he worries that the craft is “dying” because newer generations are not pursuing the field.The nation’s public transit systems would receive $39 billion under the infrastructure bill, allowing agencies to expand service and upgrade decades-old infrastructure. But transit agencies are dealing with worker shortages of their own, facing a dearth of bus drivers, subway operators and maintenance technicians.Metro Transit in Minneapolis is trying to hire about 100 bus drivers by the end of the year, said Brian Funk, the agency’s acting chief operating officer. The agency had originally aimed to hire 70 workers by the end of June, but it met only about half of that goal.Although he is optimistic that the agency will be able to fill those remaining positions after ramping up efforts to promote the openings, he said he was still wary about some workers choosing to leave.“We know that every day that goes by, there’s the potential that somebody else is looking at either retirement or another job,” Mr. Funk said.Some are optimistic that policymakers will be able to scale up work force development programs to keep up with the demand the infrastructure bill would create. Projects could take several months to get started, economists said, giving the country time to train workers who are not yet qualified.“These problems are not insurmountable,” said Nicole Smith, the chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “Not having a sufficiently trained work force is something that can be addressed.”But others are worried that the bill does not do enough to draw more people into infrastructure fields, especially historically underrepresented groups like women and people of color. Although Mr. Biden originally proposed a $100 billion investment in work force development, that funding was left out in the latest version of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The funding would have invested in job training for formerly incarcerated people and created millions of registered apprenticeships, among other things.Last week, the National Skills Coalition and more than 500 other organizations sent a letter to congressional leadership calling on it to include the funding in a separate reconciliation bill.“President Biden promised that economic recovery was going to be predicated on equity,” said Andy Van Kleunen, the chief executive of the National Skills Coalition. “Work force training has to be part of that answer.” More

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    Biden, Needing a Win, Enters a Sprint for His Economic Agenda

    As his poll numbers slide, the president and his aides have mounted an aggressive pitch in Congress and around the country for his spending plans on infrastructure and more.WASHINGTON — President Biden, his aides and his allies in Congress face a September sprint to secure a legislative victory that could define his early presidency.Democrats are racing the clock after party leaders in the House struck a deal this week to advance the two-track approach that Mr. Biden hopes will deliver a $4 trillion overhaul of the federal government’s role in the economy. That agreement sets up a potentially perilous vote on one part of the agenda by Sept. 27: a bipartisan deal on roads, broadband, water pipes and other physical infrastructure. It also spurred House and Senate leaders to intensify efforts to complete a larger, Democrats-only bill to fight climate change, expand educational access and invest heavily in workers and families, inside that same window.If the party’s factions can bridge their differences in time, they could deliver a signature legislative achievement for Mr. Biden, on par with the New Deal or Great Society, and fund dozens of programs for Democratic candidates and the president to campaign on in the months to come.If they fail, Mr. Biden could find both halves of his economic agenda dashed, at a time when his popularity is slumping and few if any of his other top priorities have a chance to pass Congress.The president finds himself at a perilous moment seven months into his term. His withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan has devolved into a chaotic race to evacuate tens of thousands of people from the country by the month’s end. After throwing a July 4 party at the White House to “declare independence” from the coronavirus pandemic, he has seen the Delta variant rampage through unvaccinated populations and send hospitalizations and death rates from the virus soaring in states like Florida.Mr. Biden’s approval ratings have dipped in recent months, even on an issue that has been an early strength of his tenure: the economy, where some recent polls show more voters disapproving of his performance than approving it.The country is enjoying what will most likely be its strongest year of economic growth in a quarter century. But consumer confidence has slumped in the face of rapidly rising prices for food, gasoline and used cars, along with shortages of home appliances, medical devices and other products stemming from pandemic-fueled disruptions in the global supply chain.While unemployment has fallen to 5.4 percent, workers have not flocked back to open jobs as quickly as many economists had hoped, creating long waits in restaurants and elsewhere. Private forecasters have marked down their expectations for growth in the back half of the year, citing supply constraints and the threat from the Delta variant.White House economists still expect strong job gains through the rest of the year and a headline growth rate that far exceeds what any forecasters expected at the start of 2021, before Mr. Biden steered a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan through Congress. But the White House economic team has lowered informal internal forecasts for growth this year, citing supply constraints and possible consumer response to the renewed spread of the virus, a senior administration official said this week.Mindful of that markdown, and of what White House economists estimate will be a hefty drag on economic growth next year as stimulus spending dries up, administration officials have mounted a multiweek blitz to pressure congressional moderates and progressives to pass the spending bills that officials say could help reinvigorate the recovery — and possibly change the narrative of the president’s difficult late summer.The importance of the package to Mr. Biden was clear on Tuesday, when he pre-empted a speech on evacuation efforts in Afghanistan to laud House passage of a measure that paves the way for a series of votes on his broader agenda.For the infrastructure bill to pass, Congress must balance the desires of progressives who see a generational chance to expand government to address inequality and curb climate change and moderates who have pushed for a smaller package.Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times“We’re a step closer to truly investing in the American people, positioning our economy for long-term growth, and building an America that outcompetes the rest of the world,” the president said.Many steps remain before Mr. Biden can sign both bills into law — but his party has given itself only a few weeks to complete them. The infrastructure bill is written. But the House and Senate must agree on the spending programs, revenue increases and overall cost of the larger bill, balancing the desires of progressives who see a generational chance to expand government to address inequality and curb climate change and moderates who have pushed for a smaller package and resisted some of the tax proposals to pay for it.It is a timeline reminiscent of what Republicans set for themselves in the fall of 2017, when they rushed a nearly $2 trillion package of tax cuts to President Donald J. Trump’s desk without a single Democratic vote.Sticking to it will require sustained support from administration officials both in and out of Washington. In the first three weeks of August, Mr. Biden dispatched cabinet members to 31 states to barnstorm for the infrastructure bill and his broader economic agenda, with events in the districts of moderate and progressive members of Congress, according to internal documents obtained by The New York Times. His secretaries of transportation, labor, interior, energy, commerce and agriculture sat for dozens of local television and radio interviews to promote the bills.Even with those efforts, the initial clash over advancing the budget this week was resolved with a flurry of calls from Mr. Biden, top White House officials and senior Democrats to the competing factions in the House.Congressional leaders say they have spent months laying the groundwork so that their party can move quickly toward consensus. Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California told colleagues in a letter on Wednesday that “we have long had an eye to having the infrastructure bill on the president’s desk by the Oct. 1,” the date when many provisions in the bipartisan package are slated to go into effect.Committee leaders have been instructed to finish their work by Sept. 15, and rank-and-file lawmakers have been told to make their concerns and priorities known quickly as they maneuver through substantive policy disagreements, including whether it should be as much as $3.5 trillion and the scope of Mr. Biden’s proposed tax increases.“I’m sure everybody’s going to try their best,” said Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the House Budget Committee chairman. “Some committees will have it rougher than others.”Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has been releasing discussion drafts of proposals to fund the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation spending — the larger bill that Democrats plan to move without any Republican support — including raising taxes on high earners and businesses. On Wednesday, he provided granular details of a plan to increase taxes on the profits that multinational companies earn and book overseas.“I’m encouraged by where we are,” Mr. Wyden said in an interview.Democratic leaders and the White House have pushed analyses of their proposals that speak to core liberal priorities; on Wednesday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, released a report suggesting the two bills combined would “put our country on the path to meet President Biden’s climate change goals of 80 percent clean electricity and 50 percent economywide carbon emission reduction by 2030.”White House economists released a detailed report this week claiming the spending Mr. Biden supports, like universal prekindergarten and subsidized child care, would expand the productive capacity of the economy and help reduce price pressures in the future.While Republicans are not expected to get on board with the larger spending bill, they are still making their concerns known, labeling the bill socialist and a spending spree and claiming it will stoke inflation and drive jobs overseas.Mr. Biden can pass the entire agenda now with only Democratic votes, but the party’s thin majorities — including no room for even a single defection in the Senate — complicates the task. Ms. Pelosi said on Wednesday that the House would “write a bill with the Senate, because there’s no use our doing a bill that is not going to pass the Senate, in the interest of getting things done.”As part of an agreement to secure the votes needed to approve the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint on Tuesday, Ms. Pelosi gave centrist and conservative Democrats a commitment that she would only take up a reconciliation package that had the support of all 50 Senate Democrats and cleared the strict Senate rules that govern the fast-track process.“I’m not here to pass messaging bills — I’m here to pass bills that will actually become law and help the American people,” said Representative Stephanie Murphy of Florida, one of the Democrats who initially announced that she would not support advancing the budget, but ultimately joined every Democrat in advancing it.For moderates, Ms. Pelosi’s commitment served to shield them from potentially tough votes on provisions that the Senate may reject. It also signaled the political realities that could shape the final legislation. No Democrat will want to vote on a large spending bill doomed for failure. It will be Mr. Biden’s job to lead his coalition to a bill that can pass muster with moderates and progressives alike — and to convince every holdout that failure is not an option. More

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    $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Pours Money Into Long-Delayed Needs

    The sprawling, 2,702-page bill includes historic investments in traditional projects as well as broadband expansion and funds for some climate projects.WASHINGTON — Amtrak would see its biggest infusion of money since its inception a half-century ago. Climate resilience programs would receive their largest burst of government spending ever. The nation’s power grid would be upgraded to the tune of $73 billion.The sprawling, $1 trillion bill that the Senate took up on Monday — a 2,702-page bipartisan deal that is the product of months of negotiating and years of pent-up ambitions to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure — would amount to the most substantial government expenditure on the aging public works system since 2009.It is also stuffed with pet projects and priorities that touch on nearly every facet of American life, including the most obscure, like a provision to allow blood transport vehicles to use highway car pool lanes to bypass traffic when fresh vials are on board and another to fully fund a federal grant program to promote “pollinator-friendly practices” near roads and highways. (Price tag for the latter: $2 million per year.)The measure represents a crucial piece of President Biden’s economic agenda, and the agreement that gave rise to it was a major breakthrough in his quest for a bipartisan compromise. But it was also notable for the concessions Mr. Biden was forced to make to strike the deal, including less funding for clean energy projects, lead pipe replacement, transit and measures targeted to historically underserved communities.Some of those provisions could be included in Democrats’ budget blueprint, expected to amount to $3.5 trillion, which they plan to take up after completing the infrastructure bill and push through unilaterally over Republican objections.The infrastructure legislation, written by a group of 10 Republicans and Democrats, could still change in the coming days, as other senators eager to leave their imprint have a chance to offer proposals for changes. The Senate began considering amendments on Monday, with more possible in the coming days.But the legislation marks a significant bipartisan compromise, including $550 billion in new funds and the renewal of an array of existing transportation and infrastructure programs otherwise slated to expire at the end of September.For climate, a substantial investment that falls short of the administration’s goals.As states confront yet another consecutive year of worsening natural disasters, ranging from ice storms to wildfires, the measure includes billions of dollars to better prepare the country for the effects of global warming and the single largest federal investment in power transmission in history.Much of the money intended to bolster the country’s ability to withstand extreme weather would go toward activities that are already underway, but which experts say the government needs to do more of as the threats from climate change increase. It also would support new approaches, including money for “next-generation water modeling activities” and flood mapping at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which would also receive funds to predict wildfires.The legislation also includes $73 billion to modernize the nation’s electricity grid, which energy analysts said would lay the groundwork for pivoting the nation off fossil fuels. But it contains only a fraction of the money Mr. Biden requested for major environmental initiatives and extends a lifeline to natural gas and nuclear energy, provisions that have angered House progressives.There is also $7.5 billion for clean buses and ferries, but that is not nearly enough to electrify about 50,000 transit buses within five years, as Mr. Biden has vowed to do. The bill includes $7.5 billion to develop electric vehicle charging stations across the country, only half of the $15 billion Mr. Biden requested to deliver on his campaign pledge of building 500,000 of them.The bill would provide $15 billion for removing lead service lines across the nation, compared with the $45 billion Mr. Biden had called for and the $60 billion water sector leaders say is needed to get the job done.The legislation also includes more than $300 million to develop technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, and $6 billion to support struggling nuclear reactors. It directs the secretary of energy to conduct a study on job losses associated with Mr. Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline.The legislation includes $73 billion to modernize the nation’s electricity grid.Jim Wilson/The New York TimesSenators won pet projects and crucial funding for their favored priorities.As one of the few major bills likely to be enacted during this Congress, the infrastructure measure has become a magnet for lobbying by industries across the country — and by the lawmakers whose votes will be needed to push it through, many of whom spent Monday highlighting funds for their top priorities.For the quartet of senators who represent the legions of federal workers who use the Washington Metro — Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia, and Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, all Democrats — there was a critical annual reauthorization of $150 million for the transit system over a decade.The legislation would authorize funding to reconstruct a highway in Alaska, the home state of Senator Lisa Murkowski, a key Republican negotiator. Special funds are set aside for the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal economic development body whose co-chairwoman is Gayle Manchin, the wife of Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, one of the bill’s principal authors and a key Democratic swing vote. Mr. Manchin also helped secure funds to clean up abandoned mine lands in states like his.The legislation would set aside funds for individual projects across the country, including $1 billion for the restoration of the Great Lakes, $24 million for the San Francisco Bay, $106 million for the Long Island Sound and $238 million for the Chesapeake Bay.It also includes $66 billion in new funding for rail to address Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, along with upgrading the high-traffic Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston. For Mr. Biden, an Amtrak devotee who took an estimated 8,000 round trips on the line, it is a step toward fulfilling his promise to inject billions into rail.Unspent pandemic funds and tougher scrutiny of cryptocurrency help pay for the plan.With Republicans and some moderate Democrats opposed to adding to the nation’s ballooning debt, the legislation includes a patchwork of financing mechanisms, though some fiscal hawks have called many of them insufficient.To pay for the legislation, lawmakers have turned partly to $200 billion in unused money from previous pandemic relief programs enacted in 2020.That includes $53 billion in expanded jobless benefit money that can be repurposed since the economy recovered more quickly than projections assumed, and because many states discontinued their pandemic unemployment insurance payments out of concern that the subsidies were dissuading people from rejoining the work force.The bill claws back more than $30 billion that was allocated — but had not been spent — for a Small Business Administration disaster loan program, which offers qualified businesses low-interest loans and small grants. That program has been stymied by shifting rules and red tape, and has disbursed cash far more slowly than Congress (and many applicants) expected.Leftover funds from other defunct programs would also be reprogrammed. That includes $3 billion never deployed in relief funds for airline workers.Marc Goldwein of the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget said that only about $50 billion of the estimated $200 billion represented real cost savings. The rest, he said, amounted to “cherry picking” numbers and claiming savings from projected costs that did not transpire.An analysis of the legislation by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the legislation could raise $51 billion in revenue over a decade, while the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release projections on its overall cost as early as this week.The legislation also includes tougher scrutiny by the I.R.S. on cryptocurrency. But a last-minute lobbying push by the industry to water down the language succeeded, resulting in a scaling back of the new requirements.Still, the provision is projected to raise $28 billion over a decade.New resources for underserved communities — but far fewer than the president wanted.As the United States remains battered by both the toll of the coronavirus pandemic and an onslaught of wildfires, droughts, floods and other weather calamities, the legislation seeks to target its support toward underserved communities historically in need of additional federal support.But while Mr. Biden had called for $20 billion for projects designed to help reconnect Black neighborhoods and communities of color splintered or disadvantaged by past construction, the legislation includes just $1 billion, half of which is new federal funding, over five years for the program. The legislation also creates a new $2 billion grant program to expand roads, bridges and other surface transportation projects in rural areas.The bill would increase support for tribal governments and Native American communities, creating an office within the Department of Transportation intended to respond to their needs. It would provide $216 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for climate resilience and adaptation for tribal nations, which have been disproportionately hurt by climate change. More than half of that money, $130 million, would go toward “community relocation” — helping some Native communities move away from vulnerable areas.It would also help improve access to running water and other sanitation needs in tribal communities and Alaska Native villages, with lawmakers determined to take care of all existing project needs.“We are still in an extreme deficit when it comes to our tribal communities,” Ms. Murkowski said in a speech on the Senate floor, adding that the funding level was “unprecedented.” “We’ve got to do right by our Native people.”A major investment in closing the digital divide.Alongside old-fashioned public works projects like roads, bridges and highways, senators have included $65 billion meant to connect hard-to-reach rural communities to high-speed internet and help sign up low-income city dwellers who cannot afford it. Other legal changes seek to stoke competition and transparency among service providers that could help drive down prices.Official estimates vary, but most suggest that tens of millions of Americans lack reliable access to high-speed internet, many of them people of color, members of rural communities or other low-income groups. That need, lawmakers said, was exacerbated by lockdowns during the pandemic that required work and schooling from home.Mr. Biden had initially proposed $100 billion to try to bring that number to zero, but he agreed to lower the price to strike a compromise with Republicans. Democrats also fought to secure the inclusion of legislation to encourage states to develop comprehensive plans to ensure that access to high-speed internet is distributed equitably among traditionally underserved groups and educate them about access to digital resources.Nicholas Fandos More