Biden announces $1.75tn US spending proposal before Europe trip

US president promotes 'historic' package to boost social spending and climate change mitigation

President Biden delivers remarks on his Build Back Better agenda and the bipartisan infrastructure deal. Reuters
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US President Joe Biden on Thursday touted a new $1.75 trillion framework for economic and climate change spending that he believes will pass the Senate, taking a huge gamble that his Democratic Party will support his proposals even though it is unclear he has the backing he needs.

In a speech from the White House, Mr Biden appeared eager to have a deal secured before heading to twin summits in Europe, where he is visiting Rome for meetings with Pope Francis and G20 leaders, then a UN climate conference in Glasgow.

“I’m pleased to announce after months of tough and thoughtful negotiations, I think we have, I know we have, a historic economic framework,” Mr Biden said.

“This framework also marks the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis ever.”

Mr Biden's proposal amounts to a compromise that would pour $1.75tn into education, childcare, clean energy and other social services — far less than the original $3.5tn price tag the president and left-leaning Democrats wanted.

Still, getting even this compromise signed into law would mark a much-needed win for Mr Biden, whose popularity is sagging amid a muted economic recovery and the continuing pandemic. He earlier met Democratic members of Congress to plead with them to support his proposal.

A poll by The Associated Press and a research group showed 48 per cent of people approve of Mr Biden's performance, while 51 per cent disapprove. The split is similar to last month but a notable drop from earlier this year.

Mr Biden's framework includes $320 billion to expand for 10 years tax credits for utility-scale and residential clean energy transmission and storage, clean passenger and commercial vehicles, and clean energy manufacturing.

It also would provide $105bn in investments and incentives to address extreme weather, legacy pollution in communities and a Civilian Climate Corps, as well as $110bn for investments and incentives for clean energy technology, manufacturing and supply chains.

Mr Biden said climate-related disasters have cost the US some $99bn in damages this past year alone.

The president also reiterated his goal of installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations and said the US is “ready to get off the sidelines on manufacturing solar panels and wind farms, electric vehicles with targeted manufacturing credits".

But a deep rift between progressive and moderate Democrats has slowed progress towards even this $1.75tn plan.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hoped to hold a vote on Thursday for a related bipartisan $1tn infrastructure bill before the president lands in Rome early on Friday.

But the House passed a temporary extension of highway funding later on Thursday, again delaying the vote on the infrastructure bill and further extending deliberations on Mr Biden's agenda.

Moderate Democrats have said they want the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed as soon as possible, but members of the progressive wing of the party have said they will not vote for it without a vote on the larger spending bill at the same time.

"We are proud of the hard work we’ve done with Members of Congress over these last months, and we’re confident that soon we’ll pass both the Build Back Better Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said late on Thursday evening.

The Democrats are enjoying a rare period of controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency. However, the margins are so tight — with only a one-vote advantage in the Senate and a handful in the House — that enacting major legislation has proved far harder than supporters had hoped.

Responding to criticism that the pending deal has been unacceptably watered down, a White House official said Mr Biden's framework would still “make historic investments” in the US.

“This will be the most transformative investment in children and caregiving in generations, the largest effort to combat climate change in history and historic tax cuts for tens of millions of middle class families, and the biggest expansion of affordable health care in a decade,” an official said.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: October 29, 2021, 12:11 AM