Joe Biden’s agenda faces crucial vote in Congress

The US House of Representatives is expected to vote on Friday on the social policy and climate-change bill and a bipartisan infrastructure bill that form the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, a senior Democratic aide said on Thursday.

Democrats have missed previous self-imposed deadlines to vote on the legislation, but their leadership feels confident they can finish on Friday, the aide said.

Earlier on Thursday night, Mr Biden was calling various House members and urging them to approve the $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill, a White House official said.

Democrats want to pass that bill and the $1 trillion infrastructure measure, which has already been approved by the Senate, by Thanksgiving later this month.

Mr Biden left for Europe last week for a meeting of G20 leaders and a UN 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 Mr Biden’s pledge to halve US greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.

Democrats are reeling from a disappointing loss in Virginia this week when a Republican won the governor’s office in a state Mr 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 US 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 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,” Ms Pelosi told reporters after a meeting of House Democrats on the legislation.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen 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”.

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.

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