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White House pitches Senate Democrats: Social policy bill needed to counter China

In a meeting Wednesday, White House aides circulated a memo pointing to a variety of measures in which the U.S. is falling behind.

WASHINGTON — The White House is pitching Democrats on its massive social spending plan by appealing to a desire on Capitol Hill and around the country to combat the rise of China.

In a meeting Wednesday, top White House aides gave Senate Democrats a memo identifying eight categories of competitiveness that his Build Back Better plan, along with provisions in the Senate-passed infrastructure bill, are designed to boost.

The five-page document, obtained by NBC News, is written by White House economic adviser Brian Deese, climate adviser Gina McCarthy and domestic policy adviser Susan Rice. It points to a variety of measures in which the U.S. is falling behind other countries.

And it makes 12 references to China.

It mentions policies to boost electric vehicles in the two bills, including rebates and tax breaks proposed in the Democrats-only bill. It pitches investments in clean energy to combat China's growing market share in making wind turbines.

The memo touts new child care and paid leave benefits to boost women's participation in the labor force, it pitches universal pre-K to improve early childhood education, and it mentions cash payments for children to combat child poverty. It links to studies reporting that U.S. competitiveness is lagging in each category.

"And, while China announced plans to establish universal preschool in 2018, the U.S. still doesn't have universal preschool," it says.

Wind turbines in Papalote, Texas, on June 15.Brandon Bell / Getty Images file

The document warns of China's steel production outpacing that of the U.S. while arguing that Biden's multitrillion-dollar plan includes grants and other money for manufacturers to boost clean domestic steel production.

The White House and Democratic leaders are working feverishly to craft a bill that can pass under narrow majorities in Congress, with Biden warning members of his party that the $3.5 trillion price tag will be slashed to get moderates on board. Republicans provided some support for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but they have roundly blasted the larger package as a "reckless tax and spending spree."