For Schumer and Pelosi, the Challenge of a Career With No Margin for Error

For Schumer and Pelosi, the Challenge of a Career With No Margin for Error

Ms. Pelosi has been in difficult situations before. She had to coax enough anti-abortion Democrats to back the House’s version of the Affordable Care Act without losing liberals, who were already smarting over the Senate’s exclusion of a new government-run plan, or “public option,” that would have competed with private insurance in the bill’s insurance marketplace.

Then Senate Democratic leaders abruptly lost their filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority, after a Republican, Scott Brown, shocked Washington by winning the special election in Massachusetts to to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Edward M. Kennedy. Ms. Pelosi had to persuade House Democrats to swallow their pride, forget months of painstaking negotiations and simply pass the Senate’s version of the Affordable Care Act, since a House-Senate compromise would be blocked by Republicans.

“The Affordable Care Act was a pretty big challenge,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who was in leadership then. “I mean, passing sweeping health care reform and completely transforming the health care delivery system in this country? Yeah, that was what I would say was comparable” to the current effort.

The social policy and climate change bill does not create a whole new government function the way the health law did, but in the scope of its ambitions, it might be even harder to pull off. It would extend groundbreaking income support programs, like the child tax credit passed this year, make prekindergarten universal and community college nearly universal, create a federally paid family and medical leave benefit, and try to firmly transition the country away from oil, gas and coal to renewable fuels and electric vehicles, to name just a few of its programs. And it would pay for all that by taxing the rich and corporations, possibly in ways never tried before.

That has created any number of choke points that could sink the bill, given Democrats’ narrow majorities. Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon has said he wants a bill that spends less than $1 trillion over 10 years. Several House members say they cannot accept the bill’s get-tough approach to prescription drug prices.

Ms. Sinema of Arizona has privately told colleagues she will not accept any corporate or income tax rate increases. But recent discussions by Senate Democrats about adding a carbon tax to the bill to both combat climate change and help replace that revenue have run up against concerns raised by three House Democrats from Texas. In a letter to Ms. Sinema and Ms. Manchin, they expressed their opposition to several provisions in the bill aimed at combating climate change, and also came out against increasing a minimum tax on overseas income from U.S. companies above where it was set in 2017.

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