Biden lauds House Dem compromise on Build Back Better plan, but Senate approval uncertain

After months of negotiations, Democrats in Washington say they are one step closer to agreement on a sweeping proposal that would touch education, health care, climate change and more. While a number of specifics are still unresolved, President Joe Biden is touting the progress made. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff with more.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    After months of negotiations, Democrats in Washington say they're one step closer to agreement on a sweeping proposal that would touch education, health care, climate change and more.

    While a number of specifics are still unresolved, President Biden is touting the progress made.

    Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.

  • President Joe Biden:

    It's a good day.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    This morning on Capitol Hill, an optimistic and determined President Biden, with him, a $1.75 trillion framework for his social policy plan.

    After weeks of negotiations, he said he was confident he could unite his party around the plan, which aims to make massive changes to health care and child care and to rewrite the tax code. If passed, the plan would also be the largest investment in climate change in U.S. history.

    Back at the White House, he called the framework historic and overdue.

  • President Joe Biden:

    This agenda, the agenda that's in these bills, is what 81 million Americans voted for.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The outline is the result of hours of closed-door meetings, hand-wringing and public feuding between moderate and progressive Democrats. It's one of the most challenging efforts of President Biden's long legislative history.

  • President Joe Biden:

    No one got everything they wanted, including me. But that's what compromise is. That's consensus. And that's what I ran on.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That framework includes $550 billion for universal pre-K, child care, and eldercare, $200 billion to extend the child tax credit through 2022.

    On climate change, there's $555 billion for investments in clean energy, and on health care, $165 billion to strengthen and expand the Affordable Care Act and add hearing coverage for those on Medicare.

    The White House says all of this is paid for by nearly $2 trillion in tax increases on corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

  • Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN):

    Collectively, we are optimistic about the framework that's being put forth. I think there's a lot of buy-in.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    House progressives, like Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, said they are enthusiastically, unanimously behind what the president proposed, and ready to vote on a resolution endorsing it.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA):

    There are too many no-votes for the BIF to pass today.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But Progressive Chair Pramila Jayapal said they were not ready to pass the bipartisan infrastructure deal today, potentially delaying a vote on roughly $1 trillion for roads, bridges and railways that cleared the Senate in August.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):

    Let's not just keep having postponements.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And pushing back on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said today's progress should be enough.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

    For those who said I want to see text, the text is there for you to review, for you to complain about, for you to add to, to subtract from, whatever it is.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But Jayapal did give up on progressives' original stance that the two bills needed to pass simultaneously. She's now signaling an infrastructure vote could come as soon as this weekend, trusting the larger package would follow.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal:

    We're going to trust the president on the Senate vote. And we're going to trust our Senate colleagues, all of them, all 50 of them, on the Senate vote.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Those senators include Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who pushed to decrease the package from its original $3.5 trillion price tag. Still, neither of them have announced whether they support the Biden framework.

    Meanwhile, the GOP stance is clear.

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA):

    People shouldn't vote for it.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    On both sides of the Capitol, Republicans are uniformly opposed.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

    It's one vision of the future all right, but it's not one that Americans want. And it's one that Senate Republicans will fight every step of the way.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    As Democrats vowed to work through the weekend to iron out more details, President Biden flew to Europe.

    At the Vatican, he is planning to meet with Pope Francis. Later, in Rome, he will meet with the Group of 20 world leaders. Then, in Scotland, he will participate in the largest climate summit in 50 years, now with this framework to promote.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Yamiche joins me now, along with our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.

    So, hello to both of you.

    I'm going to turn to you first, Yamiche.

    The president is saying that he's confident that he's going to be able to get this framework through, that he's got the votes. What is the White House thinking on this? What is their strategy here?

    OK, I'm told we may have lost Yamiche's earpiece for just a minute. We're going to come right back to her.

    But, Lisa, let me come to you.

    We heard in Yamiche's reporting what's the story on the infrastructure vote. And you have some late-breaking information.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There is news in just the past couple of minutes.

    While Speaker Pelosi had told her caucus even just this morning that she wanted to vote tonight on that infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate, I can now report that that vote will not happen tonight. Instead, the House will vote on a short-term extension of highway funding. That was in the infrastructure bill. But to keep that highway funding going, they now need a short-term patch.

    That vote will happen shortly. And more than that, Judy, the House is leaving for the weekend. There will not be the weekend vote that we heard in Yamiche's piece that there was potentially in theory.

    And I want to go over exactly why. Let's talk about where we stand on everything right now and help people understand the situation. First, right now, the House has, as Yamiche was reporting, a first draft — let's call it that — of the Build Back Better bill, the text. We saw that today. But it is just a first draft.

    The issue, the Senate is still negotiating. There are many issues still on the table for them unclosed. So progressives are waiting exactly for a Senate guarantee to try and figure out if Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will back this version of the bill. After they get that kind of guarantee, progressives say they will support the infrastructure bill as well.

    As she reported, the progressives are now saying that those bills are still linked together, but they have made it a little bit easier. They're not going to wait for the Senate to pass the Build Back Better bill. They're saying maybe the House can pass it first, and then we will be OK. They put out that statement shortly.

    But, basically, we're waiting for the Senate to kind of give a guarantee to House progressives on what it wants to do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, clearly, there's been some kind of a slowdown.

    We have Yamiche now.

    Yamiche, what is the White House thinking on this? The president expressing confidence. What is that based on? What are you hearing?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, this is really President Biden saying it is time for Democrats to get together. It is time for Democrats to make a deal and vote.

    This is really a political calculation the part of the president and in some ways a political risk. The White House put this framework out without actually securing whether or not senators, especially Senators Manchin and Sinema, as well as House progressives, were actually going to back this framework and vote for it.

    There was a sense, and White House officials were telling me all morning that they believed the president, as well as this framework, would earn the vote of the House and the Senate. But it really was a calculation the part of the president to say, I'm going to put out the ideas after talking to people for weeks, and I think that this is what the caucus can get behind.

    The other thing to note is that the president, when he went to Capitol Hill today, he went with a clear message. And that message was, it's not hyperbole to think that our majorities, Democrats' majorities in the House and the Senate, as well as his own presidency, the future of it, will be determined what by what happens in the next week.

    That is really, really extraordinary language by President Biden, because he's saying, essentially, that his legacy and his ability to be able to be reelected and the ability for Democrats all over the country to be elected really is riding on this idea of whether or not they can get these infrastructure bills through Congress.

    So that is really, in some ways, the White House thinking here. The president is confident because he says, at the end of the day, he's the leader of the party. And after having all these discussions, he hopes that people in the party will be able to trust him and be able to vote for these bills.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, with these delays, Lisa, what is known about what is still not resolved here?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There's a lot in the air.

    One part of this bill is immigration. The president did include money in the framework for a potential immigration reform for potentially millions of green cards, but we don't — we're not counting that in the calculation of how big the bill is, because we don't know if that will pass muster in the Senate.

    Also, we know negotiations continuing even on family leave. I talked to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who is working on that, just before I sat down with you. She said she just talked to Joe Manchin, who's maybe opening to some other creative ideas. Prescription drugs, same situation.

    There are talks about some creative ideas. Those are two big areas that are not in the bill now, but Senate Democrats are trying to get them back in. And I think that one other thing I want to talk about is the taxes.

    Here's where we are. I know this is a lot of information for people, but it's also important. This is what's been agreed to, 15 percent corporate minimum tax. Now, what's in flux? The millionaire surtax, because, again, Joe Manchin, the name we keep hearing, has a new idea from this morning, a 15 percent patriotic tax that would be on the wealthy. That's floating around.

    I guess this is all to say that there are just too many things, big ideas, complicated ideas, that have not been pinned down yet. So it's no wonder that progressives are not quite ready to move yet. There's a lot in the air.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just finally, to pick up on that, Yamiche, given that progressives don't seem to be getting all that they wanted, by a long shot, how is the White House, how is President Biden defending what he's apparently agreeing to?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, before President Biden flew off to Europe, which is where he's on his way to now, he spoke about this issue specifically in the East Room of the White House.

    And he said, not everyone got what they wanted. And he was really talking to House progressives, because a lot of this bill, it really is the vision of Senator Joe Manchin, because he was the one who in some ways had a lot of the power in these negotiations. So when you think about what House progressives gave up, and what the president gave up, it's two years free community college. It's also paid family leave.

    And when you think about what the president is really saying to his party here, he's saying there are other times that we can get what we want. So he has made the commitment to other lawmakers, as well as to activists, to say, we won't get it in this bill, but we might be able to get it later on.

    I should tell you, I spoke to an activist named Jocelyn Frye. She's the incoming president of the National Partnership for Families and Women. And, essentially, it's a large group that advocate for paid family leave. And she said it was disheartening and unconscionable that paid family leave wasn't in this bill, because so much of what working women need in this country is paid family leave. It's time to be able to take care of their families.

    And the fact that the United States stands out among all sorts of other countries around the world as not having that for our citizens is something that advocates are really, really upset about, and she was really upset about at the incoming president.

    That being said, the president essentially saying, trust me on this. I will be able to get it down the line.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, the president's on an airplane. The clock is ticking. The calendar pages are turning. And the hard work continues.

    Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you both.

Listen to this Segment