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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 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#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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    When Will Unemployment End? Biden Urges Some States to Extend Benefits

    President Biden is encouraging states with stubbornly high jobless rates to use federal aid dollars to extend benefits for unemployed workers after they are set to expire in early September, administration officials said on Thursday, in an effort to cushion a potential shock to some local economies as the Delta variant of the coronavirus rattles the country.Enhanced benefits for unemployed workers will run through Sept. 6 under the $1.9 trillion economic aid bill enacted in March. Those benefits include a $300 weekly supplement for traditional benefits paid by states, additional weeks of benefits for the long-term unemployed and a special pandemic program meant to help so-called gig-economy workers who do not qualify for normal unemployment benefits. Those benefits are administered by states but paid for by the federal government. The bill also included $350 billion in relief funds for state, local and tribal governments.Mr. Biden still believes it is appropriate for the $300 benefit to expire on schedule, as it was “always intended to be temporary,” the secretaries of the Treasury and labor said in a letter to Democratic committee chairmen in the House and Senate on Thursday. But they also reiterated that the stimulus bill allows states to use their relief funds to prolong other parts of the expanded benefits, like the additional weeks for the long-term unemployed, and they called on states to do so if their economies still need the help.That group could include California, New York and Nevada, where unemployment rates remain well above the national average and governors have not moved to pare back benefits in response to concerns that they may be making it more difficult for businesses to hire.“Even as the economy continues to recover and robust job growth continues, there are some states where it may make sense for unemployed workers to continue receiving additional assistance for a longer period of time, allowing residents of those states more time to find a job in areas where unemployment remains high,” wrote Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, and Martin J. Walsh, the labor secretary. “The Delta variant may also pose short-term challenges to local economies and labor markets.”The additional unemployment benefits have helped boost consumer spending in the recovery from recession, even as the labor market remains millions of jobs short of its prepandemic levels. But business owners and Republican lawmakers have blamed the $300 supplement, in particular, for the difficulties that retailers, restaurants and other employers have faced in filling jobs this spring and summer.Two dozen states, mostly led by Republicans, have moved to end at least some of the benefits before their expiration date.In their letter to Congress, the administration officials said the Labor Department was announcing $47 million in new grants meant to help displaced workers connect with good jobs. They also reiterated Mr. Biden’s call for Congress to include a long-term fix for problems with the unemployment system in a large spending bill that Democrats are trying to move as part of their multipart economic agenda. More

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    As Infrastructure Bill Nears Key Vote, Deficit Takes Back Seat

    Many Republicans are disregarding the deficit impact for the sprawling infrastructure bill, but intend to change course for looming battles on social spending and the debt ceiling.WASHINGTON — The bipartisan shrug that greeted the news that the Senate’s infrastructure bill contains $256 billion worth of deficit spending marked a new moment in the post-Trump era, one that highlighted how deficits matter only situationally to Republicans and inflation fears ebb and flow, depending on the politics of the issue.With a key test vote on the infrastructure measure expected around noon on Saturday, the Republican Party’s blasé attitude toward deficits will last only a matter of days.By early next week, with the bill likely passed, Democratic leaders will have to decide how to deal with a looming crisis: the approaching statutory limit on how much the Treasury can borrow to finance the government’s debt.They will also be pressing for Senate passage of a budget resolution intended to speed approval of $3.5 trillion in spending on health care, education, child care, immigration and other social policies, much of which would be paid for by tax increases on corporations and the wealthy.And the muffled murmurs from Republicans over infrastructure costs will give way to howls of outrage.“That will be an extraordinary debate of enormous dimension,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, predicted. “I can’t think of a single issue that underscores the difference between the two parties more than the reckless tax-and-spending spree that we’ll be dealing with here in the next week or two.”In the past, the Congressional Budget Office has loomed like the sword of Damocles over delicate legislative compromises, a nonpartisan scorekeeper whose rulings on the nation’s finances and fortunes could sink or propel hard-fought policy measures. The budget office’s prediction that successive Republican measures to replace the Affordable Care Act would cost tens of millions of Americans their health insurance effectively doomed those efforts.But the 10-year price tag the budget office put out this week for the bipartisan infrastructure bill changed no minds, even though it reported that the measure would tack a quarter trillion dollars to an already swollen sea of federal red ink. Many Republicans are beginning to regard spending on highways, bridges, rail lines and broadband the way Democrats have for years — as a long-term investment in the nation’s economic future that need not cause short-term deficit heartburn, especially when borrowing costs are at rock-bottom rates.The federal budget deficit has reached staggering proportions, driven by successive pandemic rescue packages, an economic collapse and the huge 2017 tax cut signed by President Donald J. Trump. Without counting the costs of the infrastructure or social policy bills, the C.B.O. had projected the deficit for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 would reach $3 trillion; the federal debt held by the public will exceed the size of the entire economy. Within 10 years, that debt is poised to equal 106 percent of the economy, the highest level in the nation’s history.Despite a resurgent coronavirus, the economy appears to be recovering. Employers added 943,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department reported Friday, and Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, acknowledged in late July that inflation remained a real risk in the near term“We think that some of it will fall away naturally as the process of reopening the economy moves through,” Mr. Powell said of inflation, before adding, “It could take some time.”But the federal spending of the Trump era appears to have given his party permission to put austerity in the rearview mirror, at least for some measures.In a statement on Thursday in response to the C.B.O. price tag, Senators Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, the two lead negotiators on the infrastructure deal, defended the bipartisan legislation as “a historic investment in our nation’s core infrastructure needs.”That rationale reflected longstanding arguments from liberals, which Mr. Portman and Ms. Sinema decidedly are not.“Almost every state, county and private-sector organization pays for ongoing operating expenses with ongoing revenue, and pays for physical infrastructure with debt financing,” Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, said on Friday. “Anything that provides value over a long period of time should be paid for over a long period of time. This isn’t some wacky new political philosophy; it’s just smart money management.”And because Democrats have vowed to pay for their social policy spending with tax increases and other measures, such as allowing Medicare to bargain for lower drug prices, that legislation will not increase the deficit, said Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland and a member of the Senate Budget Committee.“We are going to be paying for the American Family Plan; we are going to offset those investments, and yet you’re going to have Republicans again shedding crocodile tears over the deficit,” he said.“There is a good faith discussion about how much spending is too much,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said this week.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesTreasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen is undergoing her own reappraisal of deficit spending. In recent years, she expressed concern about the nation’s fiscal situation, even suggesting that raising taxes and cutting retirement spending would be wise. But since becoming the Treasury chief, she has espoused the view that, with interest rates at historic lows, now is the time for big spending.“There is a good faith discussion about how much spending is too much,” Ms. Yellen said during a speech in Atlanta this week. “But if we are going to make these investments, now is fiscally the most strategic time to make them.”Those arguments are hurtling toward a separate but politically connected issue: the government’s statutory borrowing limit. The official deadline to raise the debt limit came and went at the beginning of the month, forcing Ms. Yellen to employ “extraordinary measures” to keep the nation from defaulting on its debt and provoking a global economic crisis..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;}In a letter to Congress on Monday, Ms. Yellen warned lawmakers that they needed to take action to protect the “full faith and credit of the United States” and said she was already taking steps to stave off a default.Most analysts expect that the drop-dead deadline is sometime before November.Ms. Yellen has been reminding lawmakers who are reluctant to lift the debt limit that doing so does not authorize future spending; it merely allows the government to pay for expenditures that Congress has already enacted. That includes Mr. Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut.Mr. McConnell has threatened to withhold all Republican votes from a debt ceiling increase, a stance that Mr. Hollen called “part of a pattern of hypocrisy.” Republicans repeatedly raised the debt ceiling during the Trump years, even after their tax cut. But they have provoked a series of crises when a Democrat is in the White House.Even some conservatives say Republican inconsistency is undermining the party’s case for fiscal rectitude.“Republicans would have much more credibility on the debt ceiling argument if they weren’t about to vote to add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit” on the infrastructure bill, said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and a former economic aide to Mr. Portman.Democrats have a decision to make in the next few days. They could add an increase in the debt ceiling to their upcoming budget resolution, ensuring that the borrowing limit could be raised without the need for any Republican votes this fall. But that option would come with political costs: to do it, Senate rules require that the provision includes a hard number for the debt ceiling increase, like $10 trillion, which Republicans would say, inaccurately, is the true cost of the social policy bill.That is very much what Republicans want.“I think the majority has to solve this — they control the House and the Senate and the White House,” Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Republican leadership, told reporters this week.If the debt ceiling is instead raised through a separate measure, the bill could simply set a date for the next debt ceiling increase, without a dollar number. But that would take Republican votes in the Senate to break a filibuster, votes Mr. McConnell has said he will not supply.Republicans have argued that debt ceiling showdowns have long been used to force a reluctant Congress to examine the structural issues that drive up debt. The debt ceiling crisis of 2011 forced both parties to accept the Budget Control Act, which reined in spending for nearly a decade, until it lapsed under Mr. Trump.“You can’t keep increasing the debt limit over and over again without some kind of reform that starts to address the fundamental issue, and that is deficit spending that goes out as far as we can see,” Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, told Punchbowl News.That argument has Democrats livid, because the debt increase they must address was largely incurred through spending by Republicans.“This is Trump tax cut debt and Covid debt,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said. “The United States will pay its bills.”Jeanna Smialek 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

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    As Infrastructure Bill Inches Forth, a Rocky, Slow Path Awaits in the House

    Progressives have not ruled out reopening the deal that senators are painstakingly putting together, and they do not intend to take it up for months, until after their other priorities are addressed.WASHINGTON — As senators grind through votes this week on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, discontent about the legislation is building among progressive Democrats, signaling a potentially bitter and prolonged intraparty fight to come over the package in the House.Liberals who have bristled at seeing their top priorities jettisoned from the infrastructure talks as President Biden and Democrats sought an elusive deal with Republicans have warned that they may seek to change the bill substantially when they have the chance. At minimum, House Democrats have made clear that they do not intend to take up the bill until a second, far more expansive package to provide trillions more in spending on health care, education, child care and climate change programs is approved, something not expected until the fall.The result is that, even as senators carefully navigate their sprawling infrastructure compromise toward final passage that could come within days — pausing every few hours to congratulate themselves for finding bipartisan consensus in a time of deep division — the legislation still faces a rocky and potentially slow path beyond the Senate.Democrats hold a slim enough majority in the House that even a few defections could sink legislation, and progressives have been open in recent days about their reluctance to support the infrastructure legislation without an ironclad guarantee that the budget package, expected to cost about $3.5 trillion, will become law.“The Progressive Caucus has had moral clarity, and a clarion call for three months, that we need to deliver the entirety of these two packages together, so that’s going to continue to be our approach,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chairwoman of the group. “While there may be a couple of senators that are saying that they’re going to vote ‘no’ if certain things don’t happen, that is also true of any number of members in the House.”In order to deliver on Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda, Democratic leaders have remained adamant that they will approve two expansive bills this year, beginning with Senate passage of the $1 trillion bipartisan compromise, which would pour $550 billion in new federal funds into the nation’s aging roads, bridges and highways, and into climate resiliency and broadband expansion programs.The remainder of Mr. Biden’s plans to address climate change, expand health care and provide free education will be stuffed into a budget package that Democrats plan to pass using a maneuver known as reconciliation. That process allows them to bypass a filibuster, meaning that if all 50 of their senators supported the bill, it could be approved over unified Republican opposition.Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, has said he plans to bring up a budget blueprint that would pave the way for that bill as soon as the infrastructure bill passes — and will not allow senators to leave Washington for their summer break, scheduled to begin on Friday, until both are done.Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has repeatedly said that the House will not take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the reconciliation package, which will take weeks to hammer out in order to clear an evenly divided Senate. But some moderate Democrats want to vote on it immediately, sending it quickly to Mr. Biden for his signature.“We should bring this once-in-a-century bipartisan legislation to the floor for a stand-alone vote as quickly as possible,” said Representative Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey and a leader of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus.Republicans have moved quickly to try to exploit the divisions among Democrats. While more than a dozen Republicans are expected to support the final bipartisan infrastructure bill, they have branded the budget package as a “reckless tax-and-spending spree” that will drive up inflation. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, led a half-dozen Republicans on Wednesday in a barrage of criticism for what he described as “the absolute worst possible thing we could be doing to our country.”Some centrist Democrats, too, have expressed concern about the size of the $3.5 trillion plan being championed by progressives. Most notably, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has said she will not support a reconciliation bill of that size, which would doom the measure in the Senate, where Democrats need every member aligned with them to vote yes. (She has agreed to advance a budget blueprint, a crucial step for the process.)That infuriated liberal Democrats who are primed to wield their influence on the pair of economic bills. They have been emboldened in recent days by a successful campaign led by one of their own, Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, to pressure Mr. Biden into extending an eviction moratorium for renters affected by the pandemic.“Today is important because it marks, I hope, a turning point in the way that this White House views progressives,” Representative Mondaire Jones, Democrat of New York, said at a news conference after the moratorium extension was announced. “We are prepared to leverage our energy and our activism in close coordination with grass-roots activists and people all across this country.”Representative Cori Bush, Democrat of Missouri, right, led a successful campaign to pressure President Biden into extending an eviction moratorium for renters affected by the pandemic.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesThe House set its own marker for infrastructure legislation in early July with the nearly party-line passage of a five-year, $715 billion transportation and drinking water bill. But the White House instead focused on talks with a bipartisan group of senators aimed at finding a compromise that could win enough Republican support to draw 60 votes in the Senate and overcome a filibuster. As part of the resulting deal, Mr. Biden made a number of concessions, accepting less funding for clean energy projects, lead pipe replacement and transit, among other areas.The situation has rankled Representative Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Mr. DeFazio spent months shepherding the House infrastructure bill, which includes more substantial climate policy and more than 1,400 home-district projects, known as earmarks, from lawmakers in both parties.“The bill in the Senate was written behind closed doors, and you know, that’s probably not going to be the best product,” Mr. DeFazio said on CNN on Monday. “Most of the people who wrote the bill are not senior people on the committees of jurisdiction who know a lot about transportation, or perhaps a number of them are resistant to the idea that we should deal with climate change.”Pressed on whether he would ultimately block passage of the final product, Mr. DeFazio conceded that the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package “could fix a lot of the problems in this bill.”“I’ve had that conversation with the White House — that’s possible,” he said. “So if we see major changes and things that are mitigated by the reconciliation bill, OK, then maybe we could move this.”White House officials said they have remained in touch with House Democrats’ tensions. Mr. Biden has dispatched cabinet officials to meet with several of them, including Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, who traveled to Oregon to laud Mr. DeFazio’s work on infrastructure.“We’re in close touch with the president’s colleagues in the House, who he deeply respects and values as core partners in delivering on generational infrastructure progress,” said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman. In recent days, the White House has pointedly shared polls and articles that show widespread support for the bipartisan plan and highlight substantial funding for climate resilience.Senate Democrats, for their part, have vowed to remain united as they trudge through a marathon of votes to finish both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget blueprint before leaving Washington for their August recess.“We’re moving together as Democrats,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told reporters this week. “No one’s going to get everything they want. But no one’s going to get shut out, either.”Lisa Friedman More

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    $1 Trillion Infrastructure Deal Scales Senate Hurdle With Bipartisan Vote

    The vote was a breakthrough after weeks of wrangling among White House officials and senators in both parties, clearing the way for action on a top priority for President Biden.WASHINGTON — The Senate voted on Wednesday to take up a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that would make far-reaching investments in the nation’s public works system, as Republicans joined Democrats in clearing the way for action on a crucial piece of President Biden’s agenda.The 67-to-32 vote, which included 17 Republicans in favor, came just hours after centrist senators in both parties and the White House reached a long-sought compromise on the bill, which would provide about $550 billion in new federal money for roads, bridges, rail, transit, water and other physical infrastructure programs.Among those in support of moving forward was Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader and a longtime foil of major legislation pushed by Democratic presidents. Mr. McConnell’s backing signaled that his party was — at least for now — open to teaming with Democrats to enact the plan.The deal still faces several obstacles to becoming law, including being turned into formal legislative text and clearing final votes in the closely divided Senate and House. But the vote was a victory for a president who has long promised to break through the partisan gridlock gripping Congress and accomplish big things supported by members of both political parties.If enacted, the measure would be the largest infusion of federal money into the public works system in more than a decade.The compromise, which was still being written on Wednesday, includes $110 billion for roads, bridges and major projects; $66 billion for passenger and freight rail; $39 billion for public transit; $65 billion for broadband; $17 billion for ports and waterways; and $46 billion to help states and cities prepare for droughts, wildfires, flooding and other consequences of climate change, according to a White House official who detailed it on the condition of anonymity.In a lengthy statement, Mr. Biden hailed the deal as “the most significant long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century.”He also framed it as vindication of his belief in bipartisanship.“Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal,” Mr. Biden said. “But that’s what it means to compromise and forge consensus — the heart of democracy. As the deal goes to the entire Senate, there is still plenty of work ahead to bring this home. There will be disagreements to resolve and more compromise to forge along the way.”That was evident on Wednesday even as the president and senators in both parties cheered their agreement. In negotiating it, Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders were forced to agree to concessions, accepting less new federal money for public transit and clean energy projects than they had wanted, including for some electric vehicle charging stations, and abandoning their push for additional funding for tax enforcement at the I.R.S. (A senior Democratic aide noted that Democrats secured an expansion of existing transit and highway programs compared with 2015, the last time such legislation was passed.)The changes — and the omission of some of their highest priorities — rankled progressives in both chambers, with some threatening to oppose the bill unless it was modified.“From what we have heard, having seen no text, this bill is going to be status quo, 1950s policy with a little tiny add-on,” said Representative Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, a Democrat and the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.“If it’s what I think it is,” he added, “I will be opposed.”Still, the bipartisan compromise was a crucial component of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda, which Democrats plan to pair with a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that would provide additional spending for climate, health care and education, to be muscled through Congress over Republican objections.The Infrastructure Plan: What’s In and What’s OutComparing the infrastructure plan President Biden proposed in March with the one the Senate may take up soon.The vote to move forward with the infrastructure bill came after weeks of haggling by a bipartisan group of senators and White House officials to translate an outline they agreed on late last month into legislation. Just last week, Senate Republicans had unanimously blocked consideration of the plan, saying there were too many unresolved disputes. But by Wednesday, after several days of frenzied talks and late-night phone calls and texts among senators and White House officials, the negotiators announced they were ready to proceed.“We look forward to moving ahead, and having the opportunity to have a healthy debate here in the chamber regarding an incredibly important project for the American people,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio and a lead negotiator.Many of the bill’s spending provisions remain unchanged from the original agreement. But it appeared that it pared spending in a few areas, including reducing money for public transit to $39 billion from $49 billion, and eliminating a $20 billion “infrastructure bank” that was meant to catalyze private investment in large projects. Negotiators were unable to agree on the structure of the bank and terms of its financing authority, so they removed it altogether.The loss of the infrastructure bank appeared to cut in half the funding for electric vehicle charging stations that administration officials had said was included in the original agreement, jeopardizing Mr. Biden’s promise to create a network of 500,000 charging stations nationwide.The new agreement appears to cut funding in half for the Biden administration’s proposal on electric vehicle charging stations.Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesThe new agreement also included significant changes to how the infrastructure spending will be paid for, after Republicans resisted supporting a pillar of the original framework: increased revenues from an I.R.S. crackdown on tax cheats, which was to have supplied nearly one-fifth of the funding for the plan.In place of those lost revenues, negotiators agreed to repurpose more than $250 billion from previous pandemic aid legislation, including $50 billion from expanded unemployment benefits that have been canceled prematurely this summer by two dozen Republican governors, according to a fact sheet reviewed by The New York Times. That is more than double the repurposed money in the original deal.The new agreement would save $50 billion by delaying a Medicare rebate rule passed under President Donald J. Trump and raise nearly $30 billion by applying tax information reporting requirements to cryptocurrency. It also proposes to recoup $50 billion in fraudulently paid unemployment benefits during the pandemic.Fiscal hawks were quick to dismiss some of those financing mechanisms as overly optimistic or accounting gimmicks, and warned that the agreement would add to the federal budget deficit over time. But business groups and some moderates in Washington quickly praised the deal.Jack Howard, the senior vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has worked for months to broker a bipartisan deal that does not include a corporate tax increase, said the spending in the agreement “will provide enormous benefits for the American people and the economy.”“Our nation has been waiting for infrastructure modernization for over a decade,” he said, “and this is a critical step in the process.”During a lunch on Wednesday, the Republicans who spearheaded the deal passed out binders containing a summary of what could be a 1,000-page bill. The group of 10 core negotiators ultimately held a celebratory news conference where they thanked their colleagues in both parties for their support.“It’s not perfect but it’s, I think, in a good place,” said Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, who voted in favor of taking up the bill.Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, expressed optimism about the new agreement.T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York TimesAfter the vote Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, expressed optimism that the Senate would be able to pass not just the bipartisan infrastructure package, but the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint needed to unlock the far more expansive reconciliation package to carry the remainder of Mr. Biden’s agenda.“My goal remains to pass both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget resolution during this work period — both,” Mr. Schumer said, warning of “long nights” and weekend sessions. “We are going to get the job done, and we are on track.”Democrats still must maneuver the bill through the evenly divided Senate, maintaining the support of all 50 Democrats and independents and at least 10 Republicans. That could take at least a week, particularly if Republicans opposed to it opt to slow the process. Should the measure clear the Senate, it would also have to pass the House, where some liberal Democrats have balked at the emerging details.But Republicans who negotiated the deal urged their colleagues to support a measure they said would provide badly needed funding for infrastructure projects across the country.“I am amazed that there are some who oppose this, just because they think that if you ever get anything done somehow it’s a sign of weakness,” said Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana.Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has repeatedly said she will not take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the House until the far more ambitious $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill passes the Senate.Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the lead Democratic negotiator of the infrastructure deal and a key moderate vote, issued a statement on Wednesday saying that she did not support a plan that costly, though she would not seek to block it. Those comments prompted multiple liberals in the House to threaten to reject the bipartisan agreement she helped negotiate, underscoring the fragility of the compromise.“Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, wrote in a tweet. “Especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a ‘bipartisan accomplishment.’”Reporting was contributed by More

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    Senators and Biden Aides Struggle to Save Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

    A looming deadline and a last-minute need for a new revenue source are complicating a deal that was announced nearly a month ago.WASHINGTON — Congressional negotiators and the Biden administration tried on Monday to salvage a nearly $600 billion bipartisan agreement to invest in roads, water pipes and other physical infrastructure, after Republicans rejected a key component to pay for the plan and resisted Democratic plans for an initial procedural vote on Wednesday.Senators and administration officials are still working to hammer out the details of the deal, including how to ensure that a plan to finance it will secure 60 votes for Senate passage. White House officials expressed confidence on Monday that the agreement could be finalized. But its fate was uncertain.Mr. Biden is pushing his economic agenda in parts. The bipartisan agreement is meant to be Step 1 — with a much larger, Democratic bill to follow. But weeks after their announcement of a deal, the bipartisan group has not released legislative text or received external confirmation that it is fully financed. A top negotiator said over the weekend that the group jettisoned a key plan included in the deal that would have raised revenue by giving the I.R.S. more power to catch tax cheats.Republicans have come under pressure to oppose that funding method from conservative anti-tax groups, who say it would empower auditors to harass business owners and political targets. Democrats say the increased enforcement would target large corporations and people who earn more than $400,000 — and note that improved tax enforcement has been a bipartisan goal of administrations dating back decades.Still, on Monday evening Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, set up a procedural vote to begin moving toward debate on the bipartisan deal, even without the text of the plan, on Wednesday. Mr. Schumer said that if senators agreed to consider infrastructure legislation, he would move to bring up either the bipartisan deal, should one materialize this week, or a series of individual infrastructure bills that have been approved on a bipartisan basis by Senate committees.The plan was an effort to force negotiators to move toward finalizing details and a critical mass of Republicans to commit to advancing the deal, with Democrats eager to advance the legislation before the Senate leaves for its August recess. Mr. Schumer said he had support from the five main Democratic negotiators involved in talks.“It is not a deadline to determine every final detail of the bill,” he said. A vote of support on Wednesday, he added, would signal that “the Senate is ready to begin debating and amending a bipartisan infrastructure bill.”On Monday, Mr. Biden pushed for passage of the agreement during remarks at the White House, where he promoted his administration’s economic progress. But administration officials made clear later in the day that their patience for the finalization of the bipartisan agreement was running thin.“We believe it’s time to move forward with this vote — with congressional action,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said at a news briefing. Asked what the administration’s backup plan was if the plan failed to clear the test vote, Ms. Psaki demurred.“We’re not quite there yet,” she said. “There is a lot of good work that’s happened. Two days is a lifetime in Washington, so I don’t think we’re going to make predictions of the death of the infrastructure package.”Republican leaders said they wanted to see legislative text before voting on a deal.“We need to see the bill before voting to go to it. I think that’s pretty easily understood,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, told reporters on Monday. “I think we need to see the bill before we decide whether or not to vote for it.”Democrats have argued that negotiators have had nearly a month to iron out the details and that the Senate has previously taken procedural votes without finalized bill text — including when Mr. McConnell led his caucus in a failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in 2017.The biggest sticking point remains how to pay for the plan. The I.R.S. plan was estimated to bring in more than $100 billion in new tax revenue over a decade.It is unclear what the group will turn to as a substitute. White House officials and the 10 core Senate negotiators — five Democrats and five Republicans — were working on Monday to find a new revenue source.Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio and a key negotiator, floated the prospect on Sunday of undoing a Trump-era rule that changes the way drug companies can offer discounts to health plans for Medicare patients as an option. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2019 that it would cost $177 billion over 10 years, and the rule has not yet been implemented.Ms. Psaki told reporters that the administration is “open to alternatives, very open to alternatives from this end.”“But we’ll let those conversations happen privately and be supportive of them from our end,” she said.Senators were expected to virtually meet Monday evening as they continued to haggle over the details. The group met for more than two hours Sunday evening.“I think we need to see the bill before we decide whether or not to vote for it,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, told reporters on Monday.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesMr. Biden continued to push on Monday for legislative action, casting his economic policies, along with vaccination efforts, as a critical driver of accelerating growth. He promised that his remaining agenda items would help Americans work more and earn more money while restraining price increases, pushing back on a critique from Republicans.Administration officials and Mr. Biden say the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan — the larger bill that would follow the bipartisan infrastructure bill — will dampen price pressures by increasing productivity. The president said the proposals would free up Americans to work more through subsidized child care, national paid leave and other measures, as well as improve the efficiency of the economy.The spending “won’t increase inflation,” Mr. Biden said. “It will take the pressure off inflation.”He also said he had faith in the independent Federal Reserve and its chair, Jerome H. Powell, to manage the situation. The Fed is responsible for maintaining both price stability and maximum employment.“As I made clear to Chairman Powell of the Federal Reserve when we met recently, the Fed is independent. It should take whatever steps it deems necessary to support a strong, durable economic recovery,” Mr. Biden said. “But whatever different views some might have on current price increases, we should be united on one thing: passage of the bipartisan infrastructure framework, which we shook hands on — we shook hands on.”Mr. Biden used more of the speech to push for the $3.5 trillion plan, which Democrats aim to pursue without Republican support through a process known as budget reconciliation, which bypasses a Senate filibuster.In describing the varied social and environmental initiatives he hopes to include in the plan, the president repeatedly stressed the need for government action as a means to raising living standards and creating jobs.That plan contains the bulk of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda that is not included in the bipartisan bill, like expanding educational access, building more affordable and energy-efficient housing, incentivizing low-carbon energy through tax credits and a wide range of other social programs meant to invest in workers.Republicans have also amplified concerns about inflation since Democrats pushed through a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill in March. In a letter to his conference this week, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, said that “prices on everything from gas to groceries are skyrocketing,” and he vowed that “we will continue to hold Democrats to account for their reckless handling of the economy.”Mr. Biden’s economic team has said repeatedly that inflation increases are largely a product of the pandemic and will fade in the months or years to come.Mr. Biden dismissed a question from a reporter after the speech about the potential for unchecked inflation, which he said no serious economist foresaw.Margot Sanger-Katz More

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    Democrats Roll Out $3.5 Trillion Budget to Fulfill Biden’s Broad Agenda

    “We’re going to get a lot done,” President Biden said, as Senate Democrats began drafting the details on a social and environmental bill that could yield transformative change.WASHINGTON — President Biden and congressional Democrats vowed on Wednesday to push through a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint to vastly expand social and environmental programs by extending the reach of education and health care, taxing the rich and tackling the warming of the planet.The legislation is still far from reality, but the details that top Democrats have coalesced around are far-reaching. Prekindergarten would be universal for all 3- and 4-year-olds, two years of community college would be free, utilities would be required to produce a set amount of clean energy, and prescription drug prices would be lowered. Medicare benefits would be expanded, and green cards would be extended to some undocumented immigrants.At a closed-door luncheon in the Capitol, Mr. Biden rallied Democrats and the independents aligned with them to embrace the plan, which would require every single one of their votes to move forward over united Republican opposition. But crucial moderate lawmakers had yet to say whether they would accept the proposal, with a majority of policy details left to resolve.Mr. Biden’s message to the senators on Wednesday, said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, was “be unified, strong, big and courageous.”Senate Democratic leaders have said they aim to pass both the budget blueprint and a narrower, bipartisan infrastructure plan that is still being written before the chamber leaves for the August recess — a complex and politically tricky task in a 50-50 Senate. The narrowly divided House would also have to pass the budget blueprint before both chambers begin tackling the detailed legislation.Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who must ultimately get the package through the House, embraced the deal, telling Democrats in a letter on Wednesday, “This budget agreement is a victory for the American people, making historic, once-in-a-generation progress for families across the nation.”The outline includes large swaths of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda. It wraps in every major category from his American Families Plan, including investments in child care, paid leave and education, and expanded tax credits that this week will begin providing a monthly check to most families with children.“I think we’re going to get a lot done,” Mr. Biden told reporters as he left his first in-person lunch with the Democratic caucus as president.Nodding to budget constraints, party leaders conceded that many of the programs included in their plan — including the tax credits — could be temporary, leaving a future Congress to decide whether to extend them further.The proposal also includes some measures that go beyond what Mr. Biden has called for, like expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits. Democratic leaders left it to the Senate Finance Committee to decide whether to include reducing the eligibility age for Medicare to 60, a priority of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Budget Committee chairman.The resolution would also create what would effectively be a tax on imports from countries with high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. That could violate Mr. Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on Americans earning less than $400,000 a year if the tax is imposed on products that typical consumers buy, such as electronics from China.Democrats on Mr. Sanders’s committee must produce a budget resolution in the coming days that includes so-called reconciliation instructions to other Senate committees, which in turn will draft legislation detailing how the $3.5 trillion would be spent — and how taxes would be raised to pay for it.That would pave the way for Democrats to produce a reconciliation bill this fall that would be shielded from a filibuster, allowing them to circumvent Republican opposition but requiring all 50 of their members — and a majority in the narrowly divided House — to pass it.“In some cases, it doesn’t provide all the funding that I would like to do right now,” Mr. Sanders said. “But given the fact that we have 50 members, and that compromises have got to be made, I think this is a very, very significant step forward.”He added: “If you’re asking me at the end of the day, do I think we’re going to pass this? I do.”A neighborhood in Austin, Texas, where many homes have solar panels. The blueprint of the legislation includes clean energy provisions and other social programs.Tamir Kalifa for The New York TimesAt the private lunch, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, outlined the proposal and the directives it would lay out.Democrats included the creation of a civilian climate corps to add jobs to address climate change and conservation, and to provide for child care, home care and housing investments. They are also expected to try to include a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants and address labor protections.Democrats would also extend expanded subsidies for Americans buying health insurance through the Affordable Care Act that were included in the broad pandemic aid law that Mr. Biden signed this year.Huge investments would go to renewable energy and a transformed electrical system to move the U.S. economy away from oil, natural gas and coal to wind, solar and other renewable sources. The budget blueprint is to include a clean energy standard, which would mandate the production of electricity driven by renewable sources and bolster tax incentives for the purchase of electric cars and trucks.To fully finance the bill, it is expected to include higher taxes on overseas corporate activities to alleviate incentives for sending profits overseas, higher capital gains rates for the wealthy, higher taxes on large inheritances and stronger tax law enforcement.Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Finance Committee, said on Wednesday that he was also preparing to overhaul a deduction for companies not organized as corporations, like many small businesses and law firms — created by the 2017 Republican tax law — in order to cut taxes from small businesses but raise additional revenues from wealthy business owners.Specific provisions will have to pass muster with the strict budgetary rules that govern the reconciliation process, which require that provisions affect spending and taxation, not just lay out new policies. The Senate parliamentarian could force Democrats to overhaul or outright jettison the clean energy standard, the provision that climate activists and many scientists most desire, as well as the immigration and labor provisions, among others.Moderate Democrats, who had balked at a progressive push to spend as much as $6 trillion on Mr. Biden’s entire economic agenda, largely declined to weigh in on the blueprint until they saw detailed legislation, saying they needed to evaluate more than an overall spending number.“We’ve got to get more meat on the bones for me,” Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, told reporters, though he added that he would ultimately vote for the budget blueprint. “I’ve got to get more information on what’s in it.”The size of the package could be shaped by the success or failure of the bipartisan infrastructure plan, which would devote nearly $600 billion in new spending to roads, bridges, tunnels, transit and broadband. The group of lawmakers negotiating that package has yet to release legislative text as they haggle over the details of how to structure and pay for the plan.“I want to be able to tell people in South Carolina: I’m for this, I’m not for that,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesIf Republicans cannot deliver enough votes to move the package past a filibuster, Democrats could simply fold physical infrastructure spending into their reconciliation plan and take away any chance for Republicans to shape it, said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio and one of the negotiators of the bipartisan bill.“If we don’t pass infrastructure, they’re going to put even more infrastructure in than we have and worse policies,” said Mr. Portman, who fielded skepticism from his colleagues at a private Republican lunch on Tuesday. Some Republicans had hoped that a bipartisan accord on physical infrastructure projects would siphon momentum from a multitrillion-dollar reconciliation package. Instead, it appears very much on track, and it may intensify the pressure on Republicans to come to terms on a bipartisan package, even if they fiercely oppose the rest of the Democrats’ agenda.“I want to be able to tell people in South Carolina: I’m for this, I’m not for that,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Budget Committee and a peripheral presence in the bipartisan talks.He added that the lengthy floor debate over the blueprint would allow Republicans to “ferociously attack it, to have amendments that draw the distinctions between the parties, to scream to high heaven that this is not infrastructure.”Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a moderate Democrat, said he looked “forward to reviewing this agreement” but was also interested in how the programs would be financed.Sarahbeth Maney/The New York TimesSenator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the centrist Democrat whose support might be determinative, told reporters after lunch with the president that he had concerns about some of the climate language. But he did not rule out supporting the budget proposal or the subsequent package. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona and another key moderate, also hung back on Wednesday.Still, the $3.5 trillion package had plenty in it to appeal to senior Democrats who were eager to use it to advance their longtime priorities. For Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the chairwoman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, it was an extension of a more generous child tax credit, as well as subsidies for child care, prekindergarten and paid family leave.For Mr. Sanders, it was the Medicare and climate provisions.“Finally, we are going to have America in the position of leading the world in combating climate change,” he said.Mr. Tester said the need for school construction was so high that trillions could go to that alone.“The plan is a strong first step,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, adding that she was focused on funding universal child care. “We’re slicing up the money now to find the right ways to make that happen.”The budget measure is expected to include language prohibiting tax increases on small businesses, farms and people making less than $400,000, fulfilling a promise Mr. Biden has maintained throughout the negotiations. Asked on Wednesday whether the proposed carbon tariff would violate that pledge, Mr. Wyden replied, “We’ve not heard that argument.”Lisa Friedman More