Biden dials House Democrats to push $1.75 trillion bill; vote as soon as Thursday

By David Morgan, Susan Cornwell and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden lobbied Democrats in the House of Representatives on Thursday night to vote “yes” on his social policy and climate-change bill, as the party tries to recover from sobering state election losses.

Democrats want to pass the $1.75 trillion spending bill and a $1 trillion infrastructure measure that has already been approved by the Senate by Thanksgiving later this month. Party leaders said a vote was possible on Thursday night.

A White House official said Biden was calling various House members and urging them to vote yes, while leaving it to Speaker Nancy Pelosi to decide whether to hold a vote on Thursday or Friday.

Biden left for Europe last week for a meeting of G20 leaders and a U.N. climate conference without a deal on the legislation. An affirmative vote before the conclusion of the climate conference in Glasgow on Nov. 12 would bolster the credibility of Biden’s pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.

A leading moderate Democrat raised doubts, however, about the odds of quickly passing the “Build Back Better” bill on Thursday.

“It’s going to be difficult” to resolve all the issues needed to pass the bill on Thursday, Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar told reporters. With a 221-213 majority in the House of Representatives and a united Republican opposition, Democrats need near unanimity to pass legislation.

Cuellar cited objections to possible immigration provisions, the lack of a final report from the Congressional Budget Office, his own concerns about climate language and a general “lack of trust” in leadership by moderates as factors making it unlikely the bills would be approved on Thursday.

SEEKING TO MOVE FORWARD

Democrats are reeling from a disappointing loss in Virginia this week when a Republican won the governor’s office in a state Biden won handily in 2020. The party is eager to show it can move forward on the president’s agenda, and fend off Republicans

in the 2022 midterm elections when control of the House and Senate will be on the line.

The nonpartisan U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation issued a report scoring the “Build Back Better” legislation’s tax revenue provisions at $1.48 trillion over the next decade.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said the committee’s analysis did not account for additional revenue from provisions intended to enhance the Internal Revenue Service’s tax collection and to lower the cost of prescription drugs for the Medicare healthcare program for the elderly.

“It’s an objective view that it is solidly paid for,” Pelosi told reporters after a meeting of House Democrats on the legislation.

Moody’s Analytics analysts said on Thursday the bills would be fully paid for and add jobs, but that implementing them would take “deft governance.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-biden-infrastructure-yellen-idUSKBN2HP2A2 issued a statement saying the legislation would raise more than $2 trillion, enough to pay for the bill and “reduce deficits over the long term.”

The tax committee assesses only the tax provisions in legislation. The Congressional Budget Office, another nonpartisan arm of Congress, is expected to provide revenue scores for the IRS and drug-pricing provisions, Democrats said. But a final CBO report is not expected this week.

In a meeting with fellow Democrats on Thursday morning, Pelosi expressed hope for action on both bills this week, a source familiar with her remarks said.

If passed by the House, the social policy legislation would move to the Senate, also narrowly controlled by Democrats, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to enact it before the Nov. 25 Thanksgiving holiday.

The legislation would raise $640 billion from tax increases on high-income individuals and $814 billion from corporate and international tax reforms from 2022 to 2031, the Joint Committee on Taxation said.

Congress faces another pair of critical deadlines in less than a month: Lawmakers set a Dec. 3 deadline to avoid a potentially economically devastating default on the federal government’s debt, as well as to avert a politically embarrassing government shutdown.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell, David Morgan and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Heather Timmons and Peter Cooney)

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