Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

A top House progressive says $1.5 trillion is not enough to pass social spending plan

President Joe Biden speaks with members of the press before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Washington. Biden spent the weekend at his home in Delaware.
Patrick Semansky
President Joe Biden speaks with members of the press before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Washington. Biden spent the weekend at his home in Delaware.

As Democrats in Congress look to break the stalemate in negotiations over sweeping changes to the social safety net and investments in climate, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said Sunday her members would not accept a $1.5 trillion price tag.

In an interview with CNN, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said the $1.5 trillion figure put forward by Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was too small for progressives in the House to support. Progressives have been seeking $3.5 trillion in spending, but with moderates calling for a more narrow plan, the two sides remain far apart.

"That's too small to get our priorities in," Jayapal told CNN's "State of the Union," of the number Manchin has put forward.

"It's going to be somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5, and I think the White House is working on that right now because, remember, what we want to deliver is childcare, paid leave and climate change, housing."

But Jayapal was not clear on a price tag she would accept.

"The critical thing is, let's get our priorities in, and then we will figure out what it actually costs," she said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), when asked about the legislation's cost, was also not specific. Sanders told "This Week" on ABC that $3.5 trillion "should be a minimum," but said, "I accept that there's going to have to be give and take."

Similarly, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he supports the $3.5 trillion plan — but knows concessions will have to be made.

"I support the $3.5 trillion. I believe that the elements of it have been stated over and over again. They're good for this country, and they're needed by families and by our nation," Durbin said.

"But I'm a realist too ... concessions will be made. And we're certain of that."

The continuing back and forth over the size of the plan comes as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) moved this past week to delay a vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure plan that has already passed the Senate. The bill is a top priority of President Biden, but progressives in the House said they would withhold support until there was more movement in talks over the social safety bill.

That decision came under criticism Saturday by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz), who in a statement called the move an "ineffective stunt." Sinema, like Manchin, has frustrated progressives for not supporting the $3.5 trillion figure.

"The failure of the U.S. House to hold a vote on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is inexcusable," she said, "I have never, and would never, agree to any bargain that would hold one piece of legislation hostage to another."

Meanwhile, President Biden told reporters Saturday that he remains frustrated by the legislative back-and-forth, but — from his decades in the Senate — knows how legislation "gets done."

"Everybody is frustrated. That's part of government, being frustrated," Biden said, before departing the White House. But he said he was confident that ultimately, the two bills at the center of his "Build Back Better" agenda would pass.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
To make informed decisions, the public must receive unbiased truth.

As Southwestern Pennsylvania’s only independent public radio news and information station, we give voice to provocative ideas that foster a vibrant, informed, diverse and caring community.

WESA is primarily funded by listener contributions. Your financial support comes with no strings attached. It is free from commercial or political influence…that’s what makes WESA a free vital community resource. Your support funds important local journalism by WESA and NPR national reporters.

You give what you can, and you get news you can trust.
Please give now to continue providing fact-based journalism — a monthly gift of just $5 or $10 makes a big difference.