Now that Congress has temporarily handled the debt ceiling, negotiations on President Joe Biden’s spending bill have resumed. The biggest remaining hurdles include what the final dollar amount should be and what the bill should include.
The original proposed price tag for the bill was $3.5 trillion. However, centrist Democratic senators said that was too much. Sen. Joe Manchin proposed a $1.5 trillion price tag, to which President Biden countered with a $2 trillion price tag.
”I’m very disappointed we’re not going with the original $3.5 trillion,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during her weekly press conference Tuesday. “Whatever we do, it will be transformative. It will produce results.”
Trimming a $3.5 trillion plan to $2 trillion could be a tough ask for Biden. For example, he may have to decide to keep things like free childcare and community college or dental, vision and hearing aid benefits for seniors, but only for a few year. He may have to take them out completely in favor of other programs that can be kept more permanent. He also may have to trim down the scope of some of his efforts on things like climate change.
“The fact is, that if there are fewer dollars to spend there are choices to be made,” Rep. Pelosi said Tuesday at the Capitol. “This is really the point where decisions need to be made,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki added.
It’s not just centrists like Sen. Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema that the White House needs to appeal to. Some progressives in Congress have threatened to tank the bipartisan infrastructure package if the spending bill is not passed in full.
On Tuesday, progressive leaders said they are willing to reduce the duration of some programs to less than 10 years as a way to lower costs. However, they are unwilling to yield on their core priorities of child care, health care, climate change action and others.
Pelosi has set an Oct. 31 deadline for the spending bill to pass in the House. Representatives aren’t back in session until next Tuesday.