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President Joe Biden on Thursday declared a “historic” breakthrough with congressional Democrats toward passing his signature Build Back Better agenda, launching a sales job for legislation that is yet to be written and remains in limbo on Capitol Hill.
“After months of tough and thoughtful negotiations, I think we have an historic — I know we have a historic economic framework,” Biden said in a speech delivered from the White House on Thursday. “Any single element of this framework would fundamentally be viewed as a fundamental change in America. Taken together, they’re truly consequential,” the president said.
Although Biden positioned the framework he presented to Congress earlier in the day as essentially a done deal, numerous hurdles and significant internal discord remain for Democratic lawmakers who have spent weeks in painstaking negotiations on the massive social spending package.
“No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s what compromise is,” the president said.
Biden’s speech came hours after the president ventured to Capitol Hill to rally Democrats, particularly progressives who have seen numerous favored proposals whittled down or fall by the wayside in intra-party negotiations geared in large part towards appeasing two key Senate holdouts.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), one half of that pair, lauded the “significant progress” toward an agreement but noted in a Thursday statement there was still work left outstanding.
“I look forward to getting this done, expanding economic opportunities and helping everyday families get ahead,” she said.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus huddled not long after Biden departed, though members gave little indication that Thursday’s development has assuaged their qualms. The ongoing wrangling over the social spending package has also held up the $550 billion infrastructure bill that passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis, much to the consternation of a faction of Democratic House moderates who were promised a vote more than a month ago.
Biden sought to position the evolving package as part of the winning message that placed him in the Oval Office — a message targeted at fellow Democrats.
"This agenda, the agenda that’s in these bills, is what 81 million Americans voted for," he said. "That’s what they voted for. Their voices deserve to be heard, not denied — or worse, ignored.”
The White House and Democratic congressional leadership have been determined to show signs of progress on the trillion-plus agenda item in time for Biden’s trip to Europe, for which he was scheduled to depart soon after his remarks concluded.
“No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s what compromise is,” he said. “I know it's hard. I know how deeply people feel about the things that they fight for. But this framework includes historic investments in our nation and in our people.”
Biden highlighted many facets of the framework put out by the White House earlier in the day, including hundreds of billions in energy and climate investments, funding two years of free pre-school for 3- and 4-year olds, extending the Child Tax Credit and expanding access to health care coverage.
The president promised to talk further about the details of the plan upon his return from Europe next week.