WASHINGTON – President Biden, his aides and allies in Congress face a sprint in September to secure a legislative victory that could define his first presidency.
Democrats are racing against time after House party leaders struck a deal this week to push forward the two-track approach that Biden hopes will lead to a $ 4 trillion overhaul of the role of the federal government in the economy. The deal sets up a potentially perilous vote on part of the agenda by September 27: a bipartisan deal on roads, broadband, water pipes and other physical infrastructure. It also prompted House and Senate leaders to step up efforts to complete a larger, Democrat-only bill to tackle climate change, expand access to education, and invest heavily in workers. and families, in this same window.
If party factions manage to bridge their differences over time, they could achieve an iconic legislative achievement for Mr Biden, on par with the New Deal or the Great Society, and fund dozens of programs for Democratic candidates and President. to campaign on in the months. to come.
If they fail, Mr Biden could see both halves of his economic agenda wiped out, at a time when his popularity crumbles and few or none of his other priorities stand a chance of getting past Congress.
Mr. Biden finds himself at a perilous time seven months into his tenure. Its withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has turned into a chaotic race to evacuate tens of thousands of people from the country by the end of the month. After hosting a party on July 4 at the White House to “declare independence” from the Covid-19 pandemic, he saw the Delta variant run wild among unvaccinated populations and send hospitalizations and death rates due the virus skyrocket in states like Florida.
President approval ratings have gone down in recent months, even on an issue that has been one of the first strengths of his tenure: the economy, where some recent polls show more voters disapproving of Mr Biden’s performance than approving him.
The country is experiencing what will likely be its strongest year of economic growth in a quarter of a century. Corn consumer confidence has collapsed in the face of rapidly rising prices for food, gasoline and used cars, as well as shortages of household appliances, medical devices and other products resulting from disruptions in the global supply chain caused by a pandemic.
Workers did not flock to open jobs as quickly as many economists had hoped, creating long waits in restaurants and elsewhere. Private forecasters lowered their growth expectations in the second half of the year, citing supply constraints and the threat of the Delta variant.
White House economists still expect solid job gains for the remainder of the year and an overall growth rate that far exceeds what all forecasters expected in early 2021, before Mr. Biden only steers a $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package through Congress. But the White House economics team lowered internal forecasts for growth this year, citing supply constraints and a possible consumer response to the further spread of the virus, a senior administration official said this week.
Aware of the drop and what White House economists believe will be a major drag on economic growth next year as stimulus spending dries up, administration officials staged a multi-week blitz to pressure moderate and progressive Democrats in Congress to pass spending bills that officials say could help reinvigorate the recovery – and perhaps change the narrative of the difficult end of summer by Mr. Biden.
Daily business briefing
The importance of the package to Mr Biden was clear on Tuesday, when the president anticipated a speech on the evacuation efforts from Afghanistan to welcome the House’s passage of a measure that paves the way for a series of votes on its broader program.
“We are getting closer to a real investment in the American people, to positioning our economy for long-term growth and to building an America that surpasses the rest of the world,” Mr. Biden said.
There are still many steps to be taken before Mr Biden can sign both bills – but his party has only given itself a few weeks to complete them. The infrastructure bill is drafted. But the House and Senate must agree on spending programs, revenue increases, and the overall cost of the larger bill, balancing the desires of progressives who see a generational chance to expand government to fight inequalities and curb climate change and moderates who pushed for a smaller package and resisted some of the tax proposals to pay for it.
It’s 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 office without a single Democratic vote.
Democratic leaders say they spent months laying the groundwork for the party to move forward quickly. The leaders of the committee were asked to complete their work by September 15.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon released discussion drafts to fund the $ 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation spending – the biggest Democrats-only bill – in increasing taxes on high incomes and businesses. On Wednesday, he provided detailed details of a plan to increase taxes on profits multinational companies earn and reserve abroad.
“I am encouraged by where we are,” Mr Wyden said in an interview.
Mr Wyden consulted with administration officials, other prominent Senate Democrats such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mark Warner of Virginia and his House counterpart, Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, who heads the Ways and Means Committee. Other key Democrats say they are also concerned with resolving differences not only between moderates and liberals, but also between the House and the Senate.
“We are writing a bill with the Senate, because there is no point in making a bill that will not be passed by the Senate, in the interest of getting things done,” said President Nancy Pelosi of California at its weekly press conference. “We don’t want to go as slow as the slowest ship, but we don’t want to underutilize any resources either.”
As part of a deal to get the votes needed to approve the $ 3.5 trillion budget proposal on Tuesday, Pelosi promised centrist and conservative Democrats that she would only pass a reconciliation plan that would have the support of the 50 Senate Democrats and authorized the strict Senate rules that govern the expedited process.
“I’m not here to pass email bills – I’m here to pass bills that will become law and help the American people,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, one of the Democrats. which initially announced that it would not support the progression of the budget. “The reality is that we are governing in a two-chamber Congress where we also have to work with the Senate, so I think this is the most efficient and effective way to get results.”