Dems offer array of options to get Biden spending priorities passed

Several Democrats on Sunday suggested numerous options to get two massive spending bills passed that are priorities for their party and President Joe Biden after they failed to win enough support last month ahead of a leadership-imposed deadline.

Democrats are attempting to pass a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package that actually has support from both parties, while also attempting to ram through a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that would fund and expand dozens of progressive social programs. But both stalled last week amid Democrat infighting and disagreement over priorities and amounts, with moderate members balking at the latter and progressives demanding the larger reconciliation measure pass before the infrastructure bill.

Some Democrats expressed confidence that both bills will eventually pass after Democratic leaders refused to bring either measure up for a vote last week when moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) refused to support the $3.5 trillion package.

“We are going to deliver both bills,” said the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

She went on to say that Manchin’s demand for a smaller reconciliation bill of $1.5 trillion is “too small to get our priorities in,” but she did not offer a specific figure she would support, The Hill reported.

“What we’ve said from the beginning is that it’s never been about the price tag. It’s about what we want to deliver,” Jayapal added. “The critical thing is let’s get our priorities in and then we will figure out the actual cost.”

Meanwhile, White House adviser Cedric Richmond was on the same page as Jayapal, telling “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that the president “wants both bills and he expects to get both bills.” But when he attempted to repeat a White House and Democratic talking point that the larger reconciliation bill will cost “zero” dollars, the host pushed back.

“At the end of the day, Chris, I think what’s important for people to understand is that this piece of legislation costs zero,” said Richmond. “We’re going to pay for it all by raising taxes on the very wealthy and big corporations.”

“I’ve gotta stop you there, it doesn’t cost zero,” Wallace responded. “Now, you can pay for it either by borrowing it or you can pay for it by raising taxes on corporations or the wealthy, but it doesn’t cost zero.”

“At the end of the day it will cost zero because we’re going to pay for it,” Richmond insisted. “Now, if you go back and look at the Trump tax cuts, which weren’t paid for, they cost billions and billions, but we’re going to pay for everything we spend here.”

Wallace pushed again, however, going on to argue that “the fact that you’re raising people’s taxes is a cost. … If it’s a $2 trillion spending plan, net-net it costs $2 trillion.”

“Well, I’m not necessarily sure about that, Chris,” Richmond protested. “And that’s why we will make sure all of the Democrats are involved in how we shape it. But everyone’s worried about a top number. … This is really not about politics or process, it’s about purpose and accomplishing and meeting the needs of the American people.”

 Other progressives were not as willing to compromise, however. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said it was his “understanding” that Biden did not request a lower amount for the $3.5 trillion measure.

“What he said is there’s going to have to be give and take on both sides. I’m not clear that he did bring forth a specific number,” said Sanders.

Left-wing Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have each said that reducing the number of years the measure funds certain programs is an option they would consider, while Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he supports the entire package but as a “realist” understands it may need to be reduced.

Moderate Democrats, however, were angry that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to put the bipartisan infrastructure package up for a vote on Friday. In a statement, Sinema called the delay “inexcusable” without naming Pelosi specifically.

“The failure of the U.S. House to hold a vote on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is inexcusable and deeply disappointing for communities across our country,” she said. “Denying Americans millions of good-paying jobs, safer roads, cleaner water, more reliable electricity, and better broadband only hurts everyday families.”

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