As the bipartisan infrastructure bill passes, here’s what’s next for Biden’s economic plans

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  • Democrats are turning their attention to a social safety net and climate bill after Congress passed a bipartisan infrastructure law.
  • The House aims to approve the plan next week, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said both chambers aim to pass it by Thanksgiving.
  • Democratic leaders have to put almost every member of their caucus on board as they iron out the final details of the huge economic package.

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While many Democrats heaved a sigh of relief when the House passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill, the party has grueling weeks ahead to implement the rest of its economic agenda.

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The more than $1 trillion package passed on Friday that would refresh transportation, broadband and utilities complements a portion of President Joe Biden’s domestic vision. Democrats will now have to overcome several hurdles to implement, in large part, a $1.75 trillion investment in social safety nets and climate policy.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said Democrats aim to pass the social spending bill by Thanksgiving. Meeting the deadline would require both houses of Congress to hold together nearly every member of a diverse Democratic caucus — a challenge that has led to lawmakers pushing bills this year.

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Biden ensured on Saturday that his party would get behind a massive bill it aims to sell on the mid-term campaign trail next year.

“I believe we will have enough votes to pass the Build Back Better Plan,” he told reporters.

Biden also indicated he may sign the infrastructure bill after lawmakers return to Washington next week. When asked on Monday when the president would sign the bill, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said, “I don’t have a date, but it will be very soon.”

NBC News reported, citing a memo from a White House official, that his administration plans to send key officials across the country to sell the benefits of the package.

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The House plans to take the next step to pass the Social Expenditure Plan. After coming back from a hiatus of a week, the Chamber will attempt to approve the bill during the week of November 15. With no Republican support expected, Democrats can lose no more than three votes for the package.

After that it will go to the Senate. Passing the bill under special budget rules requires all 50 members of the Democratic caucus to support it.

Schumer will have to win over conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has yet to bless a framework agreement on the legislation. The House could also send a bill to the Senate that includes four weeks of paid leave for most American workers — a provision Manchin has opposed.

Once the Senate has overruled any objections from Manchin or other Democrats, it could approve a different version of the plan than the House, in addition to any impediment budget reconciliation rules imposed on the bill. The House would then have to vote on the Senate’s plan or go to a convention committee with the upper house to address the disparities.

All told, Democrats will have to navigate a series of obstacles to get the bill on Biden’s table in the coming weeks. To overcome this will require cooperation and trust among centrists and progressives, who have differing views on how big a role the government should play in promoting homes and combating climate change.

The infrastructure bill passed only after House progressives and centrists reached a non-binding agreement to approve a social spending plan this month. Five centrist Democrats said they would vote for the bigger bill if the incoming Congressional Budget Office estimates it will not add to the long-term budget deficit.

On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – who has pulled off several legislative high-wire acts in her career – expressed confidence that the centrist would honor her side of the deal.

“As agreed, when the House returns to session the week of November 15, we will act with a message that is clear and unified to deliver results,” she wrote to House Democrats.

It could take weeks for a non-partisan CBO to release cost estimates for the massive plan. However, in a Friday statement the centrist holdouts committed to vote for the legislation “in no event after the week of November 15”.

If Democrats can push the bill through Congress this month, they’ll have another big lift on their hands before the end of the year. Lawmakers are required to raise or suspend debt limits sometime in December — or risk defaulting on US debt for the first time.

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