House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggests Democrats could cut major pieces of Biden's economic plan

Key Points
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled Democrats could cut entire pieces of their social safety net and climate bill, rather than scale back a range of policies, in order to cut costs.
  • The party has to trim its $3.5 trillion proposal, the core of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda, in order to win enough votes to pass it.
  • It will mean deciding whether to prioritize programs including child care, paid leave, Medicare expansion, household tax credits and green energy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during an event about the Build Back Better Act and climate crisis at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2021.
Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

Democrats could slash entire pieces of President Joe Biden's economic plan to push it through Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Monday.

Party leaders have acknowledged they will likely have to cut $1 trillion or more from their $3.5 trillion social safety net and climate proposal. Trying to pass legislation with a razor-thin majority and no Republican votes, Democrats have to appease centrists who have called for a smaller bill.

The dilemma has left lawmakers deciding how to cut costs, either by scaling back programs or scrapping some altogether. On Monday night, Pelosi signaled her party could opt to remove some policies from the proposal entirely while keeping others fully intact.

President Biden seeking votes for economic agenda
President Biden seeking votes for economic agenda

"In order to pass both the Build Back Better Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill on time, it is essential that difficult decisions must be made very soon," she wrote to House Democrats, referencing the two planks of Biden's agenda.

She continued: "Overwhelmingly, the guidance I am receiving from Members is to do fewer things well so that we can still have a transformative impact on families in the workplace and responsibly address the climate crisis: a Build Back Better agenda for jobs and the planet For The Children!"

Pelosi did not say which pieces of the proposal could get cut, though she implied climate policy would remain a priority. The decision to scrap any part of the plan could affect the benefits millions of Americans would see from the legislation for years to come.

Asked Tuesday morning about whether Democrats would drop entire programs from the proposal, Pelosi responded, "We hope not."

House Democrats have enough votes to pass $3.5 trillion spending package
House Democrats have enough votes to pass $3.5 trillion spending package

The plan as first outlined would expand child care, paid leave and Medicare. It would extend enhanced household tax credits, create universal pre-K and make two years of community college free.

It would also encourage the adoption of green energy and the construction of climate-resilient buildings and infrastructure, through tax credits and other incentives.

As Democrats try to pass the legislation in the coming weeks, any effort to cut costs will come with significant tradeoffs.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Pelosi said an enhanced child tax credit, expanded child care and universal pre-K "really go together."

The party has had to tread carefully to move forward with both planks of Biden's agenda. The House had to delay approval of the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill after progressives threatened to vote against it until the Senate takes up Democrats' bigger plan.

Democrats aim to pass their larger bill through budget reconciliation, which allows legislation to get through the Senate with a simple majority. Still, the party cannot afford any defections in the Senate and can lose only three votes in the House.

Cutting programs to win over centrists such as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., could risk support from progressives. For instance, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has championed Medicare expansion.

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