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Pelosi says 'we're almost there' on huge US legislative bills

AFP
AFP
 2021-10-24
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US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, shown here in Washington on October 21, 2021, said Democrats are 'almost' in agreement on Build Back Better /AFP/File

After months of fierce political wrangling, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she expects agreement on a huge social spending package and a vote on a cross-party infrastructure bill this week, adding: "We're almost there."

President Joe Biden had been intent on securing passage of the two mega-measures -- which Democrats see as vital to their party's political hopes in midterm elections next year -- before he leaves for a climate summit in Glasgow that opens October 31.

And the White House noted "progress" was being made as Biden met with a key member of his party Sunday, a sentiment shared by the top Democrat in Congress.

Asked on CNN's "State of the Union" whether the agreement on the spending package and votes on infrastructure could occur in the coming week, Pelosi replied, "that's the plan."

On the spending package specifically, which has divided progressive and moderate Democrats, she sounded particularly optimistic.

"I think we're pretty much there now," she said. "We're almost there. It's just the language of it."

Pelosi's comments came as Biden, at his home in Delaware, held what the White House described as a "productive discussion" over breakfast with Joe Manchin, one of the two Senate Democrats whose resistance to the president's big Build Back Better social program had proved a major stumbling block.

"They continued to make progress, will have their staffs work on follow-ups from the meeting, and agreed to stay in close touch with each other and the wide range of members who have worked hard on these negotiations," the White House said in a readout of the meeting that was also attended by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Biden himself had expressed optimism on Thursday during a televised town-hall appearance, saying, "I do think I'll get a deal."

- 'I think we can get there' -

Biden said his feuding Democratic Party was "down to four or five issues," but "I think we can get there."

Democrats have razor-thin majorities in both houses of Congress. However, internal divisions are preventing passage of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure revamp and the historic social spending bill that Biden says will transform finances and fairness for ordinary Americans.

With pressure growing on the party not to come away empty-handed, Biden has stepped up efforts to broker a truce between more conservative members like Manchin, whose state of West Virginia voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, and the left-leaning progressive wing.

The president originally pushed for $3.5 trillion in spending on the social support bill -- including an array of benefits for students, families and the elderly, and efforts to address climate change -- but the latest figure under consideration is about $2 trillion.

Pelosi told CNN on Sunday that "we have 90 percent of the bill agreed to and written, we just have some of the last decisions to be made.

"It is less than was projected to begin with but it is still bigger than anything we have ever done in terms of addressing the needs of American families."

Politico, quoting multiple sources, said in its newsletter that Democrats doubted that an overarching agreement would emerge from the Biden-Manchin meeting Sunday, but believed progress was coming fast enough to allow leaders in the House of Representatives to hold a vote on the Senate's infrastructure deal as soon as Wednesday.

When asked during the town hall about Manchin's monthslong resistance, Biden, a former senator himself, replied, "Joe's not a bad guy. I mean, he's a friend. And he's always, at the end of the day, come around."

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