House Democrats advance $3.5tn spending package

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US politics & policy updates

The US House of Representatives has approved the framework for Joe Biden’s $3.5tn domestic spending package, after Democrats reached a deal to advance the package following days of tense talks within the president’s party.

The 220-212 vote on the so-called budget resolution marks a crucial step towards the enactment of the president’s economic agenda, which calls for massive investments in the US social safety net, including education, child care and green energy.

The framework will allow House lawmakers to proceed with a more detailed version of the legislation later in the year.

A group of moderate Democrats, led by Josh Gottheimer from New Jersey, had threatened to hold up the package absent firm guarantees that a separate $1tn bipartisan infrastructure package would be swiftly approved.

After days of negotiations with Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, an agreement was reached that allowed the $3.5tn spending plan to move forward now, with the infrastructure bill set to be considered at the end of September.

House passage of the $3.5tn budgetary framework represents a new milestone on the slow but steady march of Biden’s ambitious first-term economic agenda. In March, he signed a $1.9tn stimulus package into law, which included direct payments to millions of households, as well as an extension of jobless benefits and aid to state and local governments.

Biden has also vowed to revamp the economy more broadly with investments worth trillions of dollars to redress longstanding structural deficiencies and make the recovery from the pandemic more even.

While some Republicans have backed Biden’s $1tn plans for investments in physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges, they are opposed to the rest of his economic agenda, leaving Democrats to pass the $3.5tn package using their exceedingly slim majorities in Congress.

This has in effect given veto rights on the plan to each faction of the Democratic party, leading to growing intraparty spats over the legislation that party leaders and White House officials have been trying to patch up.

Biden hailed the vote in the House on Tuesday afternoon at the outset of remarks on the crisis of Afghanistan. He said lawmakers had taken a “significant step toward making historic investments” that are “going to transform America, cut taxes for working families and position the American economy for long term, long term growth”.

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