Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says that a deal on the Democrats’ divisive multi-trillion dollar budget bill is imminent after months of infighting between party moderates and progressives. She now plans to move the bill to the Rules Committee to advance it toward a vote on the House floor.
Pelosi’s prediction comes after a closed-door meeting at the White House between moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and President Joe Biden, who has taken a leading role in negotiating for the passage of the budget bill and the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
In a letter to her House colleagues, Pelosi wrote “we are close to agreement on the priorities and the topline [price] of the legislation.” It needs to pass both the House and Senate.
Pelosi said she believes the bill “can pass” in both chambers, reporting that she has asked the House Rules Committee to hold a hearing on Thursday “to advance this spectacular agenda For The People.” It is still unclear which route Pelosi hopes to use to advance the bill; under House rules, a variety of avenues exist.
Pelosi also gave information about Democrats’ negotiations over the details of the budget bill.
“For [the] Build Back Better [Act], the areas we have been working on fall into the categories of health care, family care, and climate,” Pelosi said.
She turned first to healthcare. “Great progress has been made to address the coverage gap in states that have not enacted the Medicaid expansion.”
Here, Pelosi is referencing an expansion of Medicare developed in response to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic. A bill passed by the Democratic Congress in early 2021 offered incentives to states who expand their Medicare programs, but around a dozen states have yet to do so, leaving many without health coverage.
Pelosi said that the bill will contain an “expansion of the Affordable Care Act” that “takes us to nearly universal coverage.” She added that “hopefully,” the bill will also expand Medicare benefits. However, the health care provisions have been divisive among Democrats in both chambers, and talks on specifics are ongoing.
Pelosi reported that “there is broad agreement on the child tax credit, universal pre-K and child care, home health care, housing, and workforce development.”
In his speeches defending the budget, Biden has often referenced these as among the most important programs in the bill.
Pelosi said that she and other Democrats “are still fighting for a paid family and medical leave provision.” Social democrats, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have been especially fond of these provisions.
However, behind a facade of unity, Democrats in the Senate remain divided on a great deal of issues.
Several Democratic senators—including Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Kyrsten Sinema, and Joe Manchin—have spoken out in recent weeks against the laundry list of proposals from their party: incentives for clean energy, encouraging electric vehicles, carbon taxes, expansion of the government’s role in healthcare, increasing tax rates, and a measure to let the IRS snoop into Americans’ bank accounts, among others.
Democrats hold the narrowest-possible majority in the Senate, where a single “nay” could tank their entire agenda. While negotiations with the most skeptical moderates are ongoing, Manchin and Sinema have continued to condemn a variety of Democratic proposals.
In Pelosi’s chamber of Congress, the situation is not quite as bleak.
While Democrats in the House control a razor-thin majority, they can spare a few defections. Democrats hold 220 seats in the House, and Republicans 212. Under this composition, the bill can still pass with three “nays” from Democrats, but no more.
Fortunately for Democratic leaders, House Democrats have been far less vocal in their opposition to the bill. In fact, Biden has suggested that Manchin and Sinema are the only two Democrats standing in the way of the bill, indicating near complete support in the House.
While little is known about the specifics of the compromise bill or whether moderates will accept it, Pelosi and other Democrats have promised that they will not advance the bill until they are sure it can pass.