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Biden promotes economic agenda as debate heats up in Congress

One day before marking six months in office, President Biden delivered remarks about the economy Monday at the White House as the push for a bipartisan infrastructure package and other components for the president’s economic agenda heat up on Capitol Hill. The president  pushed lawmakers to move forward with the spending proposals, arguing the plans will tackle some of the most persistent economic challenges the country faces as the country continues to recover from the pandemic. 

“This is the best strategy to create millions of jobs and lift up middle class families, and grow wages and keep prices affordable for the long-term,” Mr. Biden said. 

Last month, the economy added 850,000 jobs, after two months of lower growth than economists had anticipated. The number of people filing for unemployment claims for the first time last week hit its lowest number since the pandemic began in March 2020, another sign of the economy slowly recovering. During his remarks, Mr. Biden touted the creation of 3 millions jobs since he entered office and praised the passage of the American Rescue Plan in March.

“The U.S. is the only developed country in the world where growth projections today are stronger than they were before the pandemic hit,” Mr. Biden said. He claimed his administration brought the country “back from the brink.” 

But the president warned the United States cannot be complacent.  He urged Americans to get vaccinated. 

At the same time, the president is promoting a nearly $600 billion bipartisan infrastructure framework being negotiated by a group of senators that focuses predominantly on transportation and broadband. At the same time, Democrats are working on a budget resolution for a roughly $3.5 trillion package that will address some of Mr. Biden’s other top priorities, including education, child care and climate change. 

Mr. Biden said the spending will boost productivity and wages. He also said it would take the pressure off inflation, as some Republicans have claimed his spending agenda would only fuel rising prices. The president said those whose primarily concern is inflation should be “even more enthusiastic” about the plan.

Last week, Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, announced he will file cloture on Monday, paving the way for the bipartisan infrastructure bill to move forward. An initial vote could come on Wednesday as lawmakers move to finalize the agreement. However, some Republican lawmakers expressed concern that setting a Wednesday deadline, saying the goal is to get it right. Some key aspects of the infrastructure bill are still being worked out.

On Sunday, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio revealed that one provision to help pay for infrastructure, providing the IRS with additional funding to track down on tax enforcement, would not be part of the agreement. 

“One reason it’s not part of the proposal is that we did have pushback,” Portman told CNN. “Another reason is that we found out that the Democrats were going to put a proposal into the reconciliation package which was not just similar to the one we had, but with a lot more IRS enforcement.” 

Initially, the infrastructure framework included $40 billion in additional funding for the IRS. The Biden administration wanted $80 billion total for the IRS over 10 years to help the agency crack down on tax avoidance. The Treasury Department estimated that the so-called tax gap, or the difference between what is owed and what was actually paid, will reach $7 trillion over the next decade. Mr. Biden has argued it’s time for the largest corporations and wealthy Americans to pay their fair share. On Monday, Biden said spending would be paid for responsibly.

Portman said Sunday it was important that the infrastructure bill be paid for, and additional meetings were held over the weekend to discuss.

Schumer also said he wanted Democratic lawmakers to reach an agreement by Wednesday on the budget resolution. It’s set to include provisions such as extending the enhanced monthly Child Tax Credit payments, paid family leave, universal pre-K for three and four-year-olds, making college more affordable and spending on clean energy.



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