WASHINGTON — The House Budget Committee advanced a draft version of President Joe Biden’s signature tax and social spending measure, a milestone ahead of possible votes on the floor of the chamber next week.
Lawmakers voted 20-17 in a mostly party-line ballot to move the bill forward during a rare weekend meeting.
Congressional Democrats are using a fast-track budget process to ram the up-to-$3.5 trillion economic package through the Senate, bypassing Republicans. As part of the process, the Budget Committee must assemble the 13 component parts of the bill reported out of policy committees this month, and send the 2,465-page bill to the Rules Committee — the last step before a floor vote.
Scott Peters of California, a moderate Democrat, voted against pushing the bill to the next step after saying he objects to some provisions and believes the process is rushed. Peters opposed the drug price negotiation provisions in the bill.
“I think it needs more work,” he said.
While the session is a procedural step, it then turned to attempts by lawmakers to add nonbinding amendments to the bill — providing a showcase for concerted Republican opposition and potential insight into some Democrats’ views on the draft.
The effort to keep the bill moving comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are trying to project momentum for the Biden agenda amid deep Democratic rifts and falling poll numbers for the president. It remains to be seen if the package will be brought to a floor vote in the House anytime soon, given that four dissenting Democratic members could sink it in face of united GOP opposition.
Party leaders scheduled a meeting of all House Democrats for Monday at 5:30 p.m., as they struggle to unite the party on the economic package and a separate Biden-backed infrastructure bill that’s supposed to come to the House floor on Monday.
“The next few days will be a time of intensity,” Pelosi said in a letter to her Democratic caucus on Saturday.
The economic package would raise $2.1 trillion in revenue through measures including tax increases on corporations, the wealthy and tobacco users. That would help pay for a bevy of social programs including universal paid family leave and pre-school and free community college, along with new Medicare dental, vision and hearing benefits.