Senate Democrats say President Joe Biden made “a compelling case” for them to accept a two-part package that would pay for infrastructure as well as a broad range of social spending programs aimed at reducing poverty and bolstering the economy.
Biden met privately in the Capitol with Senate Democrats Wednesday, a day after Democratic leaders unveiled a $3.5 trillion target for social spending that likely fell short of the spending wish list eyed by many liberals.
Biden told lawmakers voters are tired of waiting for the government to help them and that “incremental” action is no longer sufficient, Democrats said after the meeting. He implored them to “think about his neighbors” in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden lived until he was 10.
Biden addressed a Democratic caucus already frustrated with his very public push for a $1 trillion deal with a small group of Republicans that would pay for fixing crumbling roads, bridges, waterways, and expanded broadband. Democrats have criticized the deal as too narrow in size and scope.
But in the meeting with Senate Democrats Wednesday, Biden made the case that party lawmakers should accept both bills, arguing it is the best opportunity they’ll have to try to push into law an overall spending package that would be worth nearly $4.5 trillion over the next decade.
“This president makes an incredibly compelling case that this is the moment to go big,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said after the meeting with Biden. “This is a moment you have to be able to deliver real money in the pockets of Americans that are hurting.”
Murphy, like many other Democrats, is still deciding whether he will support the two bills. The narrow infrastructure measure comes up short on funding for rail and other mass transit critical to the Northeast Corridor, he explained. And few Democrats know much about the $3.5 trillion spending package announced just hours earlier by the Senate Budget Committee Democrats. The top-line number is far less expensive than an initial plan to spend as much as $6 trillion on social programs.
“For me, the devil is still in the details,” Murphy said. “There’s still a lot to learn about the budget committee process. I certainly haven’t, you know, committed to vote for it yet.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the package “is a strong first step” but favors spending more money, particularly on a plan to provide universal child care.
“We’re slicing up the money now to figure out the right ways to make that happen,” Warren said.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and a socialist, called Biden’s address to lawmakers “very strong” and said Biden endorsed Sanders’s plan to broaden Medicare to include younger recipients and to include dental, hearing, and other care now excluded. “He gave us a broad outline, and our job is to fill in the gaps and expand it when necessary. He was very good today.”
Original Author: Susan Ferrechio