Biden, Senate supporters celebrate new bipartisan deal on spending

After 26 speeches over the course of two days, Vice President Joe Biden officially introduced the Senate to his plan to increase federal spending on human services by 17 percent.

The core elements of the bill require that Congress create a high-quality health care program for all Americans — while also eliminating cuts to Medicare and Medicaid funding — and provides a special spending fund for low-income families — while also eliminating cuts to poverty programs and tax cuts for the rich.

“It’s a complete roadmap to deliver the nation’s collective best interests in investing in human capital,” said Mr. Biden, who introduced the bill on Wednesday and stayed late into the night to finalize some language. “This is not rhetoric. This is not politics. This is not a policy exercise. This is action.”

“It puts us on a path to recognize that in this country, people are far more complicated than a particular plan or policy outcome,” he said.

The bill does not change entitlement spending, an idea that attracted bipartisan support in 2010 — with a few minor changes — before being rejected by House Republicans. And with Republicans now controlling both chambers, some observers worry that this same bill will also fail.

Still, if the Senate were to pass the legislation, it would mark the first time in more than a decade that a bipartisan government spending deal was struck.

Senate Republicans immediately praised the legislation’s inclusion of $25 billion for opioid treatment and $200 billion in tax relief for the middle class — which Mr. Biden said would not come from slashing programs that help low-income families.

“It represents an historic opportunity to build on the Republican tax cut plan by providing the rest of the benefits to low-income families,” said Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, a Republican and chairman of the Senate subcommittee overseeing health care spending.

But Mr. Moran also complained about some of the bill’s provisions, including a rule that forces states to use a variety of funds for Medicaid waivers — except for a one-year transition period — if they don’t adopt basic health care reforms in order to preserve spending. The move is opposed by advocates who say that the costs of federal Medicaid spending could be well-managed through the state’s existing system.

“This bill shows how the fight to reform Medicaid by making the program work for the states and their residents is the right way to go,” said Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, who signed on to the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York spoke in praise of the bill’s funding for “crisis” mental health programs — especially “the inclusion of $100 million in funding to fight sexual violence on college campuses.”

“There is nothing ideological about this bill,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican and a co-sponsor of the legislation. “It simply treats Americans as an asset, a resource, not an expense.”

Ms. Collins and Mr. Moran were joined by more than a dozen Republican and Democratic senators in signing onto the legislation. That number could swell if other senators join the bill — as many are likely to — and as Mr. Obama, who signed into law several smaller bills during his presidency, urged his former colleagues to sign on.

“President Obama believed in fairness and common sense. It’s time we grew our economy and protected taxpayers while making sure that more Americans get the help they need,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “This bill has a long history of bipartisan support. Now it’s time to get to work and get this bill passed — so that more Americans can have a brighter future and be able to provide for their families.”

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