Pritzker visits with Biden for meeting on $3.5 infrastructure plan

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTVO) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, along with other governors and mayors, to discuss the Senate Democrats’ $3.5 trillion jobs plan.

Meetings of Congress have shown shaky support for the spending plan, particularly among moderates.

“Kids need to be able to drink clean drinking water that doesn’t have lead in it. Communities need to have reliable transit systems. We have a chance to solve these problems – a bipartisan chance to solve these problems and create millions of jobs, literally,” Biden said.

Late Tuesday, top Democrats announced an agreement among themselves on plans to spend a mammoth $3.5 trillion over the coming decade on a wide range of domestic programs, an expansion Biden has proposed financing with tax boosts on the rich and big corporations. Included in the proposal would be a top priority for progressives — an expansion of Medicare, the health insurance program for older Americans, to include vision, dental and hearing coverage.

According to a senior Democratic aide, the party will also propose extensions of tax credits for children, child care and some low-income people; money for environmentally friendly energy technologies and a federal standard aimed at encouraging a shift to clean energy. The plan would also fund pre-kindergarten for toddlers and paid family leave and a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe Democrats’ plans.

Yet those ideas are merely proposals right now, and Democrats will have to decide which programs are affected and by how much in future legislation. That will likely take months.

The initial plans fall short of even bolder progressive goals, like extending overall Medicare coverage to people as young as 60. Biden and party leaders face a tricky task of winning over moderates wary about tax boosts and further ballooning budget deficits, and progressives demanding even more spending.

“We know the road ahead is gong to be long. There are bumps along the way,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York acknowledged Wednesday. But he said Democrats would press ahead because “we must make average American lives a whole lot better.”

Underscoring the political complexities, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin stopped short of saying Wednesday that he would back all the policy initiatives that Biden and top Democrats are pursuing. “I really haven’t seen everything yet,” Manchin, one of the chamber’s more conservative Democrats, told a reporter.

Republicans could well oppose the effort unanimously, criticizing its costs and likely tax increases. Democrats will need support from all their lawmakers in the 50-50 Senate and could lose no more than three in the House.

Separately, a bipartisan group of senators is working to flesh out a related measure that would cost around $1 trillion — including around $579 billion in new spending — on roads, water systems and other more traditional infrastructure projects, another Biden priority. Biden and that group had agreed to an outline of that measure last month, and bargainers are hoping to craft a compromise bill in coming days.

Together, the infrastructure and social program packages fall a bit short of the roughly $4.5 trillion Biden had proposed to help communities and families in every corner of the country. That means some increases Biden has proposed will have to be curtailed or cut.

The Democrats’ goal is to push a budget resolution reflecting Tuesday’s agreement through the House and the Senate before lawmakers leave for their August recess. Budget passage would let Democrats move a follow-up spending bill that actually finances the party’s priorities with just 50 votes and Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote in the Senate, not the 60 votes Republicans could otherwise require with a bill-killing filibuster.

The actual spending legislation would likely not start moving through Congress until the fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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