LIVE COVERAGE: House panel launches work on $3.5T spending package

September 10, 2021

The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday kicks off a multiday markup of key elements of Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending package.

The committee has already released several portions of the package that it is set to consider, including those related to paid family and medical leave and expanding Medicare.

The panel also has jurisdiction over any tax increases that will be included in the package to offset the cost of new spending, but it has yet to release legislation on this topic.

The Ways and Means Committee is one of several House panels that will be considering portions of the social-spending package on Thursday. House Democrats are aiming for all committees to finish their markups by Sept. 15.

Follow along with The Hill's liveblog for updates from Day 1 of the Ways and Means markup.

Committee approves section on child care, adjourns for the night

8:34 p.m.

The Ways and Means Committee approved the child-care section by a vote of 23-19.

Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyLawmakers question impact of SolarWinds hack on US attorneys' offices Biden approval ratings drop in seven key congressional districts: GOP-aligned poll House panel approves B boost for defense budget MORE (D-Fla.), who has raised concerns about the speed at which Democrats are moving, joined Republicans in voting against the section.

The panel then recessed until 10 a.m. Friday. The committee is expected to take up portions of the spending bill on Friday that concern health care and trade.

Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealWays and Means to begin marking up .5T package Five tax issues to watch as Democrats craft .5T bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight MORE (D-Mass.) told reporters after the markup ended for the evening that he expects to release legislative text about revenue raisers over the weekend. He said he doesn’t expect the tax portion to raise a full $3.5 trillion in revenue.

— Naomi Jagoda

Ways and Means turns to child care section

6:46 p.m.

The third part of Democrats’ spending bill that the Ways and Means Committee is considering is focused on child care.

This section of the bill includes grants aimed at helping child care providers improve their facilities, as well as grants aimed at increasing wages for child care workers.

Democrats said the portion of the bill would benefit the economy.

“Investments in child care are investments in our workforce and our sustained economic might,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.).

Republicans argued that the legislation is fiscally irresponsible. They said Congress has already approved tens of billions of dollars in new child care funding in recent months.

“It’s time to put the brakes on,” said Rep. Jackie WalorskiJacqueline (Jackie) R. WalorskiHouse Ethics panel reviewing Rep. Malinowski's stock trades Republicans hit Biden over Afghanistan, with eye on midterms GOP's Banks burnishes brand with Pelosi veto MORE (R-Ind.).

— Naomi Jagoda.

Committee approves section on retirement savings

6:12 p.m.

The Ways and Means Committee advanced the retirement section of the package by a vote of 22-20.

Democratic Reps. Stephanie Murphy (Fla.) and Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindLobbying world Democrats on key panel offer bill on solar tax incentive GOP sees Biden crises as boon for midterm recruitment MORE (Wis.) joined Republican committee members in voting against the section.

The section includes provisions to require certain businesses to automatically enroll employees in retirement plans, and to enhance a retirement savings tax credit that benefits low- and middle-income households.

Republicans had offered several amendments to the retirement portion, but they were rejected by Democrats.

— Naomi Jagoda

Lawmakers shift focus to retirement savings

4:42 p.m.

The next portion of the spending bill that the Ways and Means Committee is considering is focused on encouraging retirement savings.

The section would mandate that certain employers that don't sponsor retirement plans automatically enroll their workers in individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or 401(k)-type plans. It also would expand a retirement savings tax credit for low- and middle-income households.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said the provisions "would dramatically expand retirement savings in the United States" and also would be especially helpful for Hispanic, Asian and Black populations.

The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyThe Memo: Strong jobs report offers vindication for Biden Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change GOP, business groups snipe at Biden restaurant remarks MORE (R-Texas), said the section would impose an "onerous new mandate" for businesses. He also criticized Democrats for taking a partisan approach to retirement-savings legislation, since lawmakers on the committee have previously worked on bipartisan bills on the topic.

Neal said that he doesn't plan to let Democrats' work on their spending bill compromise the separate bipartisan efforts on retirement savings.

— Naomi Jagoda

Ways and Means advances 12-week parental, medical leave

3:56 p.m.

The House Ways and Means Committee advanced the portion of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending bill to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave — the first portion of the package that the committee approved.

The committee advanced the provisions in a vote of 24-19. The section now heads to the House Budget Committee, which will combine the various portions of the bill approved by other committees.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) joined Republicans in voting against the section. Murphy said earlier in the markup that she supports paid family leave but has issues with the fact that other portions of the spending bill within the Ways and Means Committee’s jurisdiction have yet to be released.

— Naomi Jagoda


Republicans offer amendments on paid family leave

3 p.m.

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have begun offering amendments to a Democratic proposal for universal paid family leave that is being considered for the party’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, but the amendments have failed due to Democratic opposition. 

Republicans bristled at colleagues across the aisle on the Democratic-led panel over how quickly the party has moved to try to get the massive spending package through the House by the end of the month.

One amendment, offered Rep. Adrian SmithAdrian Michael SmithRepublicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change On The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire GOP Rep. Kevin Brady won't seek reelection MORE (R-Neb.), sought to strike the paid leave proposal entirely. Another aimed to include requirements for workers to provide 30-days’ notice of the need to be absent from work.

Another amendment also sought to strike the upper earnings limit of $250,000 in the proposed provision and establish a minimum and maximum benefit amount. 

A number of Republicans used the time to voice opposition to the paid leave proposal, citing concerns about cost and the potential burden the legislation could pose to businesses and employees.

Republicans also complained about the lack of input the minority party has been able to have on negotiations pertaining to the massive spending and the pace at which their colleagues have been moving on the package.

Smith claimed the approach of the “governing majority” has been to move as “their way or the highway.”

“It really shows a bipartisan effort of the majority, not to work with us. We even have members of the majority refuse to work with members on my side, because they disagree with how they vote on unrelated items,” he said.

— Aris Folley

Moderate House Dem to vote against provisions 

1:05 p.m.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a prominent moderate House Democrat, indicated that she is planning to vote against the provisions under consideration in the markup "unless something changes," citing concerns about the legislative process.

"Despite this committee's extraordinary efforts, I find myself in an impossible situation," she said.

Murphy said that she supports many of the proposals in Democrats' spending package, adding that she recognizes Democrats have to advance the legislation on a Democratic-only basis.

But she expressed concerns about the fact that the Ways and Means Committee has only released some of the proposals it is expected to consider in the markup, and has yet to release proposals on prescription drugs, clean energy incentives, and tax increases. She also said that lawmakers have yet to see Congressional Budget Office scores for many of the proposals.

"Process matters, because I want my constituents to have faith in what I'm doing," she said.

Murphy said she doesn't blame the committee for the fact that some of the legislative text has yet to be released, and instead criticized Democratic leaders for setting an "artificial deadline" of Sept. 15 for committees to finish markups of the spending package.

"I believe this deadline was too rushed, driven by politics, rather than policy," she said.

Murphy added that she wants to see all of the Ways and Means Committee's portions of the bill before voting for any of them because the bill would create programs that would significantly impact her constituents.

"I don't think we can afford to do everything, and as a legislator, I have to prioritize and make tough choices," she said.

Murphy said she plans to "continue working to get this package to a place where I can support it, where it can pass both chambers, and where it can be signed by the president."

— Naomi Jagoda

 Panel begins with paid family leave provisions

11:15 a.m.

The first portion of the bill that the Ways and Means Committee is considering focuses on universal paid family and medical leave.

Under the legislation, workers with recent wages would be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Benefits would be administered through a new public program, through previously enacted state programs and through private employers that meet certain criteria.

Neal called the portion of the legislation on paid family leave “one of the most profoundly important pieces of this entire package.”

Republicans criticized the provisions, arguing that it could be difficult to administer and is not well-targeted. They also criticized Democrats for pursuing legislation on a partisan basis.

“This approach has resulted in a poorly designed program so bad that even the most radical Democrat lawmaker should take a second look,” said Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.).

— Naomi Jagoda

Democratic chairman hails 'historic moment'

10:34 a.m.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) began the markup by saying lawmakers have a “historic moment” with the legislation to make valuable investments in the economy.

“We have a once-in-a-generational opportunity to make transformative, beneficial change,” Neal said. “This is our moment to lay a new foundation of opportunity for the American people.”

Meanwhile, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), criticized the legislation, saying it includes spending and tax increases trillions of wasteful spending and crippling tax hikes that would increase consumer prices and result in job losses.

“Our economy will only get worse if Democrats succeed in ramming through trillions of dollars in spending and tax hikes,” Brady said.

The hearing is taking place in a hybrid format, with many of the lawmakers attending in person and several others attending virtually. Lawmakers were spaced out across the hearing room to allow for social distancing.

— Naomi Jagoda