As Democrats in Congress push to put the finishing touches on President Joe Biden’s legislative economic agenda, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touted a government report which she said suggests that the Build Back Better bill — Biden’s $1.75 trillion social spending and climate change bill — is “solidly paid for.”
The report, issued Thursday by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), says that the tax-increase provisions in the bill would raise $1.5 trillion over 10 years — but it does not include the bill’s other pay-fors, including drug pricing provisions or IRS enforcement.
Corporate and international tax reform will bring in roughly $814 billion in revenue, while tax increases on wealthy Americans will bring in $640 billion.
All told, Mass. Rep. Richard Neal, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, told reporters that the bill will be fully paid for when all of those other elements are considered.
An estimate provided by the White House suggests IRS enforcement could bring in $400 billion, with prescription drug reform providing $145 billion — putting the total somewhere in the neighborhood of over $2 trillion in revenue.
"I think we're in a good place to move forward, and we'll continue to have conversations [with lawmakers]," said principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Thursday afternoon.
The JCT score comes the same day that reports emerged that Speaker Pelosi told members of her caucus that she wants to hold a vote on the Build Back Better bill as soon as Thursday, with a vote on the $1 trillion Senate-passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill as soon as Friday morning.
At her weekly press conference Thursday morning, Pelosi did not commit to a specific timeframe for those votes, simply telling reporters, "I’ll let you know as soon as I wish to.”
"We're going to pass both bills, but in order to do so, we have to have votes for both bills, and that's where we are,” Pelosi pledged, but did not commit to whether or not they have the votes yet.
"Did you see the whip count?” Pelosi asked reporters. “Because I'll tell you something about [House Majority Whip James] Clyburn, he keeps it close to the vest.”
Jean-Pierre called the speaker and President Biden "partners" in getting the administration's sweeping agenda passed.
Asked whether Democrats are trying to do too much, too soon, especially given the close governors' races on Tuesday that led to a Republican win in Virginia, Jean-Pierre said the Build Back Better agenda was something that should have happened "decades ago."
"We have to get this done for the American people," she said, later adding: "81 million people voted almost a year ago to put this president where he is right now to make sure that we deliver for the American public. So this was this was out there over a year ago."
And she said Biden had not spoken to West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin since last week, the senator who could sink the president's agenda even if it passes the House this week, due to his opposition to the inclusion of paid family leave and other provisions.
"We’re going to pass both bills but in order to do so we have to have the votes for both bills,” Pelosi added on vote timing Thursday.
One thing Pelosi did make clear? There will not be a vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill without a Build Back Better vote.
"No," Pelosi replied when asked if there will be a standalone vote on infrastructure.
Democrats in Congress have expressed a renewed urgency to get both bills passed after less-than-desirable election results in Tuesday’s off-year elections for the party, including a Republican candidate capturing the Virginia gubernatorial race and a Democrat incumbent barely hanging on to win re-election in New Jersey — both states President Biden handily won in 2020.
“There ought to be a clear message to my party and all those who support it to get the job done,” Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, told reporters Wednesday.
"Only in Washington, do people think that it is a smart strategy to take a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure and prevent your President from signing that bill into law, and that's somehow a good strategy," Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said Wednesday.
"The last couple months, I've been appealing to my Democratic colleagues," Warner continued. "Let's get the President the infrastructure bill, not only in terms of the substance, but also in terms of showing that we can govern in a pragmatic, practical way.”
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal told CNN that what went wrong in Virginia was “failure to deliver.” “Congress has to deliver,” he continued. “Window is closing. We have no more time.”
In a speech about vaccinations for kids later Wednesday, Biden said that Tuesday's election certainly underscores the fact that Democrats need to show that they can "produce for the American people.”
"It should have passed before Election Day," Biden said, but he conceded that he was "not sure I'd be able to change the number of very conservative folks who turned out in red districts" in Virgina, noting that "people are upset and uncertain about a lot of things," including COVID, gas prices and the economy.
Biden pushed back Wednesday on the notion that the election was a referendum on his nascent presidency, but told Democrats who are negotiating on his legislative agenda to "get it to my desk."
Pelosi acknowledged that "any sign of progress is always good for the public" when asked if House Democrats bear any blame for Democrat Terry McAuliffe's loss in Virginia, adding that "it would have been better if we had" passed Biden's economic legislation.
The venerable California Democrat said "it was not a good night" for Democrats, but said she thinks "there were other issues at work in that election" and would not commit to one specific reason for losses due to not having analyzed the data from the election.
"Without saying what impact it had, it's always a positive message to have results that are understood by the public," Pelosi acknowledged.
While it’s indeed difficult to ascribe blame to any one factor, especially in off-year elections, experts told Spectrum News that not passing the Biden economic agenda before Election Day certainly didn’t help matters.
“They're negotiating with each other, going up to the various cliff, playing chicken with each other,” said Benjamin Dworkin, director of the Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship and Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.
“When it doesn't get done, why should anyone believe that any Democrat can get things done?” Dworkin continued. “The Democrats are the party of dysfunction … which was not what they got elected on.”
The infrastructure bill passed the Senate in August with widely bipartisan support, but has stalled in the House with progressives arguing that the two bills must move in tandem.
Progressives have signaled that they are ready to vote on both bills as soon as this week.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she believes Congress will pass both bills this week.
“I do, I really do,” she told MSNBC on Wednesday. “I think that there’s a lot of unity, I have been working … very hard to deliver all of our Congressional Progressive Caucus members to vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, which some of them weren’t too thrilled about, but everyone understands we’ve got to get both of these bills done, and we are going to get both of these bills done.”