Democratic leaders in Massachusetts’ congressional delegation expressed confidence Congress and President Joe Biden could seal the deal on heavy investments in infrastructure, combatting climate change and expanding access to child care all while creating jobs and spurring the economy following a meeting in the White House on Wednesday.
Rep. Katherine Clark, the assistant speaker of the House, and Rep. Jim McGovern, chairman of the House Rules Committee, met with Biden at the White House along with other progressive lawmakers following the president’s separate sessions with moderates and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Democrats are hammering out an aggressive $3.5 trillion budget while also finalizing a bipartisan infrastructure plan. Moderates are pushing to lower the overall price tag while progressives threaten to scuttle the Senate-approved infrastructure bill if the budget excludes a series of initiatives on child care, health care, climate and other issues.
“I’m very encouraged by this afternoon’s meeting with President Biden,” McGovern said in a statement Wednesday evening. “Congress has a once-in-a-generation chance to pass some of the most consequential economic policies since the New Deal. It’s clear to me that President Biden understands what’s at stake for families all across the country and continues to push for the transformative Build Back Better plan that the American people voted for last November. As we work through the specifics of the reconciliation bill, I want to be clear: Democrats are committed to passing both of these bills.”
In a statement Wednesday, the White House called they meetings “an important opportunity … to engage with members and hear their perspectives, and progress was made toward finding the pathway forward for lowering costs for hardworking people and ensuring that our economic growth strategy is based on investing in families, not more giveaways to big corporations and the wealthiest taxpayers.”
With the Senate split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, Democrats are relying on the annual budget reconciliation process to include progressive investments in the $3.5 trillion package. The budget only requires a simple majority support to reach Biden’s desk; Vice President Kamala Harris would vote in the case of a tie. But some moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia have pressed to lower costs.
“I’m grateful for the president’s leadership and personal involvement in moving us forward,” McGovern added. “I look forward to doing everything I can as chairman of the Rules Committee to seize this moment, advance the most ambitious policies possible, and deliver on our promises to the families and communities that are counting on us to fight for them.”
Clark said in a statement that she was grateful to Biden for his “absolute commitment” to helping everyday Americans.
“[Biden’s] vision ensures that we are looking forward instead of returning to the status quo, acknowledging the urgent climate crisis and essential role of the care economy — child care is and has always been infrastructure,” Clark said. “I’m confident that we will reach the finish line and bring these transformational economic policies to life. We will meet this moment of historic challenges with historic progress.”
Rep. Richard Neal, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, touted his committee’s recent advancement of the reconciliation bill, including 12 weeks of paid medical leave, a bump in the corporate tax rate to 26.5%, and incentives for renewable energy development.
“All of these measures are grounded in the goal of growing our economy and making it more inclusive and sustainable for the future,” Neal said earlier this week.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters Wednesday that Biden wants to hear what concerns lawmakers have, and “he wants to play a role in hopefully unifying members of the party around the path forward.”
“Sometimes there’s need for compromise from every end, but you’ll know more after these discussions today, in the coming days,” Psaki said.
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