US President Joe Biden has declared he had reached a “historic economic framework” with Democrats in Congress on his sweeping domestic policy package, a hard-fought yet dramatically scaled-back deal announced just before he departed for overseas summits.
Biden’s remarks on Thursday at the White House came after he travelled to Capitol Hill to make the case to House Democrats for the still-robust domestic package – $US1.75 trillion ($A2.32 trillion) of social services and climate change programs – that the White House believes can pass the 50-50 Senate.
“It will fundamentally change the lives of millions of people for the better,” Biden said of the agreement, which he badly wanted before the summits to show the world American democracy still works.
“Let’s get this done.”
Together with a nearly $US1 trillion ($A1.3 trillion) bipartisan infrastructure bill heading for final votes possibly as soon as Thursday, Biden claimed it would be a domestic achievement modelled on those of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.
“I need your votes,” Biden told the lawmakers earlier, according to a person who requested anonymity to discuss the private remarks.
Biden was eager to have a deal in hand before departing for the global summits. But final votes are still a ways off. At best, he left with a revised package that has lost some top priorities, frustrating many Democrats still pressing to include them as the president’s ambitions make way for the political realities of the narrowly divided Congress.
Paid family leave and efforts to lower prescription drug pricing are now gone entirely from the package, drawing outrage from some lawmakers and advocates.
Still in the mix, a long list of other priorities: Free pre-kindergarten for all youngsters, expanded health care programs – including the launch of a new $US35 billion ($A46 billion) hearing aid benefit for people with Medicare – and $US555 billion ($A736 billion) to tackle climate change.
There is also a one-year extension of a child care tax credit that was put in place during the COVID-19 rescue and new child care subsidies. An additional $US100 billion ($A133 billion) to bolster the immigration and border processing system could boost the overall package to $US1.85 trillion ($A2.45 trillion) if it clears Senate rules.
One pivotal Democratic holdout, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, said, “I look forward to getting this done.”
However, another, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, was less committal: “This is all in the hands of the House right now.”
The two Democrats have almost single-handedly reduced the size and scope of their party’s big vision.
Republicans remain overwhelmingly opposed.
Taking form after months of negotiations, Biden’s emerging bill would still be among the most sweeping of its kind in a generation, modelled on New Deal and Great Society programs.
The White House calls it the largest-ever investment in climate change and the biggest improvement to the nation’s healthcare system in more than a decade.
In his meeting with lawmakers at the Capitol, Biden made clear how important it was to show progress as he headed to the summits.
“We are at an inflection point,” he said. “The rest of the world wonders whether we can function.”
With US elections on the horizon, he said it’s not “hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week”.
To push his big package to completion in the divided Senate, Biden needs all Democrats’ support, with no votes to spare. The House is also split with just a few votes margin.