Pelosi estimated 90 percent of the bill had been agreed upon and written but didn’t specify a final spending number. The social spending bill — which has proposed investments in child care, home health care, paid family leave and climate change mitigation — had started out as a $3.5 trillion package but faced opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
“It is less than was projected to begin with, but it’s still bigger than anything we’ve ever done in terms of addressing the needs of America’s working families,” Pelosi said.
The White House and other party leaders have spent recent weeks in intense negotiations with the party’s holdouts about how to scale back the bill enough to win their support. Pelosi’s assurances Sunday came as Biden, at home in Delaware this weekend, was hosting Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to continue discussions on the spending package.
Little surfaced immediately from the meeting, except for a brief White House statement Sunday evening describing the breakfast as “productive” and saying discussions would continue.
Meanwhile, liberal Democrats have maintained they will not pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill without a concurrent agreement on the social spending bill. But on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a member of the House Progressive Caucus, said it was “likely” that both deals could be passed this week before Biden attends the COP26 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
“The president looked us in the eye, and he said, I need this before I go represent the United States in Glasgow,” Khanna said. “Many members understand that. We’re working very hard to get a deal. I understand we’re close, and I’m confident we’re going to get there.”
Pelosi said the bipartisan infrastructure plan must be passed by Oct. 31, when an extension for transportation funding programs expires. That funding has already expired once, which resulted in a brief furlough of 3,700 Transportation Department employees. Pelosi also avoided answering whether she was frustrated by Manchin’s and Sinema’s resistance to the bill.
“I’m respectful of everybody’s point of view,” she said Sunday.
In a televised town hall Thursday, Biden said Sinema was “very supportive” of his agenda but refused to raise taxes on corporations or wealthy Americans, “and so that’s where it sort of breaks down.” Pelosi on Sunday said that “we probably will have a wealth tax” but that it would cover only about 10 percent of what they needed to pay for the bill. She expressed confidence, however, that the entire social spending bill would be paid for, including through IRS tax enforcement and global taxes.
“We were ready to pay for $3.5 [trillion]," she said. “So we can certainly pay for [a bill that’s] half of that.”
Khanna, who had originally backed Biden’s broader tax increase for corporations and the wealthy, on Sunday expressed support for a “billionaire’s tax” as a means of paying for the bill.
“The billionaire’s tax is essentially a wealth tax,” he said, noting that such a tax was at the core of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign. He also noted that a billionaire’s tax would hit his Silicon Valley constituency especially hard.
And while Khanna called Manchin, with whom he disagrees, “a straight shooter,” he had some harsher words for Sinema, who publicly has been more evasive when it comes to her specific objections to the social spending bill.
“You know exactly where [Manchin] stands. I disagree with areas, but I respect that,” Khanna told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “My concern with Sen. Sinema is … why doesn’t she explain herself? If she’s shifted her position on Trump tax cuts, explain it. I guess I’ve never seen a politician — including, frankly, the former president Trump — who just totally ducks answering questions of the media and constituents, and that’s my frustration with her. She’s not clear about what she believes.”
In Pelosi’s wide-ranging interview on CNN, the House speaker also indicated that she was open to using the reconciliation process to avoid a Senate filibuster in raising the debt ceiling and that she would support pulling back the filibuster to pass a voting rights bill.
“The most important vote right now in the Congress of the United States is the vote to respect the sanctity of the vote, the fundamental basis of our democracy,” Pelosi said. “If there were one vote that [pulling back] the filibuster could enable to go forward, that would be the vote.”
Pelosi also said she thought the Justice Department should prosecute those who defy subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. The House voted to hold former Trump aide Stephen K. Bannon in criminal contempt last week for refusing to comply with the committee’s requests.
“It’s important for us to find the truth about what happened on Jan. 6, an assault on our Constitution, our Congress and our Capitol,” she said.
Pelosi declined to answer whether she would run for reelection.
“I would have to have that conversation with my family first, if you don’t mind,” she said.
Greg Jaffe contributed to this report.