WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that she’s “disappointed” Democrats must lower the price tag of the $3.5 trillion social safety net package and suggested they may have to make some sacrifices.
“We have some important decisions to make in the next few days so that we can proceed. I’m very disappointed that we’re not going with the original $3.5 trillion, which was very transformative, but whatever we do, we will make decisions that will continue to be transformative about women in the workplace,” she said at her weekly press conference at the Capitol.
Pelosi stressed that the final package, despite the lower cost, will still be “transformative” and “will produce results.”
The speaker said that members of her caucus have told her that they still want to include all of the original programs such as universal pre-K, home health care, the child tax credit and tuition-free community college. She suggested that in order to keep all of those proposals in the measure, Democrats would have to pare back the number of years of guaranteed funding.
Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., says he wouldn’t support a bill without the inclusion of medical provisions, such as Medicare coverage for dental, vision and hearing.
“The time is now,” said Sanders during a press call on Tuesday. “This to me is not negotiable, this is what the American people want.”
Asked if Democrats might have to drop one of those programs from the bill, Pelosi said, “Well, we hope not.”
But, she reiterated that she won’t bring a bill to the House floor that can’t also pass the Senate, where Democrats can’t afford to lose any votes and moderates have balked at the $3.5 trillion price tag.
In a letter to rank-and-file members Monday night, Pelosi wrote: “It is essential that difficult decisions must be made very soon.”
“Overwhelmingly, the guidance I am receiving from Members is to do fewer things well so that we can still have a transformative impact on families in the workplace and responsibly address the climate crisis: a Build Back Better agenda for jobs and the planet For The Children!” she wrote.
This comes after moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has said he would accept a $1.5 trillion price tag, while progressive lawmakers said in a meeting with President Joe Biden last week that $2.5 trillion to $2.9 trillion would be an acceptable cost of the Build Back Better plan.
Teaganne Finn contributed.