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Congressman Jim Clyburn says Democrats will trim social spending bill

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House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn says Democrats are modifying the Build Back Better Act, Democrats’ massive social spending bill with care, as they try to forge a compromise acceptable to both moderates and progressives in the party.

“We’ll trim it down very very carefully — and with a whole lot of trepidation,” the South Carolina Democrat said Thursday on CBSN. 

While a $3.5 trillion version of the bill has passed the House, the two factions in the Democratic Party have been negotiating about what will remain in the bill. Since it will only have the support of Democrats in the Senate, the measure must win the support of all 50 Democrats in order to pass, and two Senate moderates want to see the price come down before they’ll back it.

The White House and liberals haven’t said what they’d be willing to give up, although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said it’s possible the duration of some programs in the bill could be cut. 

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Some Democrats, most notably Senator Bernie Sanders, wanted the package to be $6 trillion, he noted. The Biden administration had pushed $3.5 trillion. 

“Now, we are trying to get down to $2 trillion,” Clyburn said. “So what we’re trying to do is find common ground, and we need to be very careful in doing that because we have a very diverse caucus. Our caucus, compared to the other side, is really a reflection of the country. And this country’s a pretty divided country.”

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Mr. Biden has been criticized by some who say he isn’t doing enough to force his agenda through Congress. But Clyburn said he thinks the president is “doing a good job of doing what is necessary to get where we need to be.” 

The other key piece of legislation up in the air is the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that passed with bipartisan support in the Senate. Progressives successfully stopped that bill from coming to the House floor by pledging enough votes to tank it if the Senate didn’t pass the much larger social safety net bill first. 

Asked about the timeline for passage of the infrastructure bill, Clyburn responded, “Well, as long as it takes, and I mean that.”

The Democratic whip said key elements of that bill, like funding for high speed broadband internet, fall short of what’s needed in many states. Clyburn said he’s trying to keep the focus on ensuring states receive enough money for provisions like clean drinking water and high speed broadband internet. 

Congress recently passed a short-term extension of the debt limit, but it will have to address that and long-term government funding before early December, when they’ll have to face the threats of a partial government shutdown and U.S. default again. 

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