WASHINGTON (AP) — President Biden stepped up his bid to push multitrillion-dollar domestic plans through Congress on Wednesday, lunching with Senate Democrats a day after party leaders announced a compromise for pouring federal resources into climate change, health care and family service programs.
The closed-door session was Biden’s first working meeting with lawmakers at the Capitol since becoming president. It marked the start of Biden’s efforts to firm up support for forthcoming legislation among Democrats, whose skinny congressional majorities leave him with virtually no votes to lose.
Late Tuesday, top Democrats announced an agreement among themselves on plans to spend $3.5 trillion over the coming decade on a wide range of domestic programs, which Biden has proposed financing with tax boosts on the rich and big corporations. The proposal includes an expansion of Medicare to include vision, dental and hearing coverage.
According to a senior Democratic aide, the party will also propose extensions of tax credits for children, child care and some low-income people; money for eco-friendly energy technologies; and a federal standard aimed at encouraging a shift to clean energy. The plan would also fund pre-kindergarten for toddlers, paid family leave and a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The initial plans fall short of even bolder goals, such as extending overall Medicare coverage to people as young as 60. Biden and party leaders face a tricky task of winning over moderates wary about deficits and tax boosts, and progressives seeking even more spending.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that Democrats would press ahead despite “bumps along the way” because “we must make average American lives a whole lot better.”
Republicans could well oppose the effort unanimously, criticizing its costs and likely tax increases.
Separately, a bipartisan group of senators is working to flesh out a related measure that would spend around $1 trillion on roads, water systems and other more traditional infrastructure projects. Biden and that group had agreed to an outline of that measure last month.