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Democrats aim to reset domestic legislative agenda after Biden speech

It is up to Biden and the Democrats in Congress to figure out how to unite warring progressive and centrist wings of the party on a narrower series of domestic investments now that his $1.75 billion "Build Back Better" initiative is in ruins.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Capitol in Washington on March 1, 2022.
EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS
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WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats this week will try to start salvaging the unfinished parts of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda and respond to voters' demands to address inflation while also bolstering high-tech jobs to compete with China.

Biden, in his State of the Union address last week, sketched out a more moderate path following a year of spending around $3 trillion to tame the COVID-19 pandemic and invest in infrastructure improvements.

It is up to the president and his fellow Democrats in Congress to figure out how to unite warring progressive and centrist wings of the party on a narrower series of domestic investments now that his $1.75 billion "Build Back Better" initiative is in ruins.

That sweeping measure would have recast American society, providing help for families to pay for child- and elder-care costs, subsidizing pre-kindergarten education and scores of other initiatives, such as renewing an expanded child tax credit for lower-income families.

Biden provided some pretty strong hints of where he now would like to see Congress move in the months leading up to the Nov. 8 elections that will determine whether his party maintains control of the House of Representatives and Senate.

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Priorities include reducing the high cost of prescription drugs such as insulin, combating climate change through tax incentives to make homes and businesses more energy efficient while weaning Americans off of autos that guzzle ever-more-expensive gasoline and raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for these initiatives.

In a Senate speech on Thursday, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, took Biden's lead in calling for "lowering costs while building on the wage and job growth" of the past year.

Senate Republicans, however, could stand in the way of some of these initiatives, challenging Democrats to use a special procedure known as "reconciliation" to pass legislation without their support.

Democrats will try to hash out the road ahead in annual retreats they are holding this week. Biden is expected to make his case to senators holding a retreat in Washington on Wednesday and on Friday at a final session of a three-day meeting of House Democrats in Philadelphia.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell.)

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