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Pelosi tells House Democrats to prepare for "adjustments" to $3.5 trillion spending plan

Democrats finalizing $3.5 trillion spending bill
Democrats finalizing $3.5 trillion spending b... 06:58

Washington — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues on Monday that they should brace for "adjustments" to the $3.5 trillion social spending package to fit the Senate's constraints for the budget process lawmakers are using to fast-track the legislation through Congress.

Democratic-led House committees completed work last week on their respective portions of the sweeping $3.5 trillion plan, which is a cornerstone of President Biden's economic agenda. But Pelosi warned her fellow Democrats that the package could be trimmed to ensure it clears both the House and Senate. 

"The president and Senate Democrats sent us a budget resolution with a cap of $3.5 trillion. I have promised that we would not have House members vote for a bill with a higher topline than would be passed by the Senate. Hopefully that will be at the $3.5 trillion number," the California Democrat said. "We must be prepared for adjustments according to the Byrd rule and an agreed to number."

Lawmakers are using a tool called budget reconciliation to pass the $3.5 trillion package, which includes Democrats' plans for universal pre-k, expanding Medicare, child and elder care, and addressing climate change. The process allows the legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority, but language has to comply with certain parameters in order to be included in the reconciliation bill.

Called the "Byrd Rule," for the late Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, provisions that are considered "extraneous" must be stricken from a reconciliation bill. An item is considered extraneous if it meets at least one of six definitions, such as if it fails to directly impact the federal budget.

Already, the Senate's rules governing the reconciliation process have doomed one proposed provision of the $3.5 trillion package: Democrats plans to put an estimated 8 million undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship.

The Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, who interprets the chamber's rules, said in a decision Sunday that the "policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation." 

The ruling from the parliamentarian sent Democrats back to the drawing board for ways to include their immigration policies in the $3.5 trillion package that will pass muster.

In order to avoid future setbacks, Pelosi said the legislation crafted by House committees is being reviewed by the House and Senate Budget Committees to ensure it complies with the rules of reconciliation. 

As they work to deliver Mr. Biden a massive legislative victory, Pelosi and Democratic leaders are navigating competing factions of their party, who are at odds over the size of the wide-ranging plan and the sequencing of it and the more narrow $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

In the Senate, two key Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have taken issue with the $3.5 trillion price tag and want to see it scaled down. Their support is crucial in order for the upper chamber to clear the package.

In the House, progressive Democrats are threatening to tank the bipartisan infrastructure bill if the larger legislation doesn't pass first. But moderate Democrats secured a promise from Pelosi last month for the House to take up the infrastructure measure by September 27. 

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