WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said Democrats were nearing a compromise deal on President Joe Biden’s infrastructure agenda and planned to vote on twin packages this week.
Biden met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) behind closed doors at his Delaware home Sunday, looking to work out any last-minute disagreements over a nearly $2 trillion spending bill focused on so-called "human infrastructure" such as child care and elder care.
A Schumer spokesman on Sunday night told Newsday "progress is being made."
Pelosi (D-Calif.), appearing on CNN’s "State of the Union," said: "We have 90% of the bill agreed to and written. We just have some of the last decisions to be made."
The president initially backed a $3.5 trillion social spending package for programs that included universal prekindergarten and paid family leave for workers. Moderate Democrats, including Manchin, a key swing vote in the evenly split Senate, pushed back, forcing Democrats to scale back their plans to a roughly $2 trillion package.
A separate $2.3 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was passed by the Senate over the summer, and is awaiting a House vote. The Senate bill focuses on more traditional infrastructure projects such as repairing roads and expanding broadband internet access.
"I think we are pretty much there now," Pelosi said when asked if an agreement on the social spending package would come before Biden leaves for a three-leg trip to Europe on Friday.
The Speaker's assertion that a vote will occur ahead of a self-imposed Oct. 31 deadline comes after promises to hold a vote last month were scuttled as moderate and progressive Democrats faced off over what priorities to include in the massive spending package.
Asked if four weeks of paid family leave will remain in the final bill — after being trimmed from a proposed 12 weeks — Pelosi said her "hope" is that it will.
"That's what we're fighting for," she said.
Pelosi appeared less confident that a proposed expansion of Medicare to provide seniors with dental, vision and hearing coverage, would remain in the final bill. The expansion has been favored by progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), but Manchin and other moderates have raised concerns about the long-term costs involved.
"Dental is very expensive," Pelosi said, adding that federal officials have said it would take five to six years to roll out a Medicare dental plan. "Dental will take a little longer to implement. But that's part of the negotiation right now."
The ongoing talks also center on how to pay for Biden’s agenda — the president initially proposed a plan to increase taxes on corporations and the nation’s top income earners. But Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), a moderate Democrat, has raised objections to the tax hikes, forcing Democrats back to the negotiation table.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, appearing on CNN after Pelosi, said there were "a variety of different ways to raise revenue," when asked if Biden’s plan would ultimately be funded without adding to the national debt, as the president has promised.
Senate Democrats have weighed other tax proposals to pay for Biden’s plan, including focusing on increasing tax requirements for billionaires.
"All in all, it should be relatively straightforward to raise the revenue necessary to pay for this bill," Yellen said. "The final package exactly, what's in and out, hasn't been decided. That's being negotiated now."