U.S. House Democrats struggle to reach deal on Biden agenda

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives sought a compromise between centrists and progressives on Tuesday that would enable them to advance key parts of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

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House leaders teed up an early-afternoon vote on Biden’s ambitious plan for trillions of dollars to expand child care and other social programs, one day after intraparty disagreements forced them to postpone an earlier vote.

The House Rules Committee approved a deal on Tuesday that would also guarantee a vote by Sept. 27 on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, a priority for moderate Democrats. But that did not appear to be enough and committee Chairman Jim McGovern said the panel would meet again at 12:30 (1630 GMT) to strengthen that guarantee.

Biden’s fellow Democrats have little room for error as they try to approve the two massive spending initiatives through the House and the Senate, where they hold razor-thin majorities.

“These negotiations are never easy,” McGovern said. “I think it was Hillary Clinton who says it takes a village. I say it takes a therapist.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had hoped to quickly approve a $3.5 trillion budget outline here, which would enable lawmakers to begin filling in the details on a sweeping package that would boost spending on child care, education and other social programs and raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

But centrist Democrats, led by Representative Josh Gottheimer, have refused to go along, saying the House must first pass the infrastructure bill here, which has already won approval by Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.

Liberals, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have said they won’t support the smaller package without the larger one, fearing they will lose leverage.

Democrats hold a narrow 220-212 majority in the House and Republicans have said they will not support the budget plan.

Democratic Representative Richard Neal said negotiations have grown more complex as the dispute has spilled out into the open.

“We always anticipated that this would be a long slog,” he told reporters.

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