Thursday night, President Joe Biden arrived in Italy for the first of two international summits, but he was not yet able to claim the legislative victory he claimed was at hand earlier in the day.
The president announced he and Democrats had reached an agreement on the framework for a $1.75 trillion "Build Back Better" package that "will fundamentally change the lives of millions of people for the better."
After months of sometimes tense negotiations between the White House, progressive Democrats in the House, and moderates in the Senate, whose opposition to the original $3.5 trillion price tag ultimately forced the measure to be pared down, the president stated the parties had agreed on a "historic economic framework."
"It’s a framework that will create millions of jobs, grow the economy, invest in our nation and our people, and turn the climate crisis into an opportunity and put us on a path, not only to compete, but to win the economic competition for the 21st century," Biden said.
The president thanked those who helped bring the process this far and noted that no one got everything they wanted, "including me, but that’s what compromise is," he said. "That’s consensus, and that’s what I ran on."
While it's certainly possible that elements of the package could still change, information provided by the White House suggests items removed to help bring the cost down include free community college, paid family and medical leave, and a robust expansion of Medicare.
Other elements that remain, however, the president and Speaker Nancy Pelosi insist, in and of themselves would be considered transformational. The package would significantly expand a number of health care, day care, and education programs, such as free universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. Perhaps more significantly, given the President's upcoming participation in the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the Build Back Better Act would put more than half a trillion dollars into various climate initiatives.
Just prior to publicly announcing the framework agreement at the White House, Biden paid a visit to Democrats at the Capitol, eager to share details of the blueprint with them, but also to plea for their support so that he could show those attending the summits that his administration can deliver on promises and that American democracy still works.
While Biden's visit generated wild enthusiasm among some in the caucus, others indicated they could not guarantee their support based on a framework and would need to see actual bill text.
That would be important because passage of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package -- passed out of the Senate in August -- would require near unanimous support from Democrats and Pelosi (D-CA) sent word that it was going to be brought to the floor Thursday afternoon, in an effort to have it effectively on the president's desk by the time his plane landed in Rome.
By mid-afternoon, however, progressives were indicating they wanted to at least have the Build Back Better bill text in hand before agreeing to vote yes on the infrastructure bill.
"We intend to vote for both bills, when the Build Back Better bill is ready," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the House Progressive Caucus.
At her weekly press conference at 2 p.m., Pelosi responded and said "the text is there for you to review, for you to complain about, for you to add to or subtract, whatever it is. And we'll see what consensus emerges from that."
Consensus on the budget reconciliation package may still emerge, but ultimately the only consensus that emerged Thursday was that a vote on the infrastructure bill would have to wait. Instead, the House passed a measure extending federal highway funding, which expires at the end of the month, through November.
Whenever it does come up, Republicans are poised to oppose it en masse, despite it being co-authored by Republicans in the Senate and getting 19 GOP votes during passage.
"I’m not willing to allow for the infrastructure package to pass, because then it’s all but certain that the reconciliation bill is going to be put up for a vote, and none of us wants to see American taxpayers paying more at the end of the day," said Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK5).
The Biden administration insists both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill are completely paid for and will not raise taxes an anyone earning less than $400,000.