Democrats cut Biden’s Build Back Better bill in race to strike deal
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his Build Back Better infrastructure program at the NJ TRANSIT Meadowlands Maintenance Complex in Kearny, New Jersey, the United States, October 25, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
WASHINGTON – As President Joe Biden prepares to leave Thursday for a week of summits in Europe, the White House and Congressional Democrats scramble to finalize a deal on their signature national spending program.
If they can accomplish that, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to bring a bipartisan infrastructure bill to the House for a vote before the president leaves for Rome. This bill has already passed in the Senate and if approved in the House, Biden could sign it this week.
Biden traveled to New Jersey on Monday to promote the infrastructure part of his two-part plan.
“This is going to be good union jobs for a current wage that you can raise a family on, jobs that cannot be outsourced,” he said of the bill’s rail and transportation funding. . “We are going to make the biggest investment in public transportation in American history.”
Until Democrats can agree on the terms of the expanding social safety net bill, House progressives will not approve the infrastructure bill.
But in the Senate, two centrist Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, refuse to approve the spending plan until their specific demands are met.
In order to satisfy Manchin, the total cost of the expense bill is reduced from $ 3.5 trillion to between $ 1.5 trillion and $ 2000 billion. To win Sinema, Democrats must rework their original plan to tax the highest incomes and corporations to pay for the expansion of the safety net.
To bring down the overall price, Democrats are making tough decisions. Several of Biden’s campaign promises have been scrapped altogether, such as providing a free community college and instituting a clean electricity standard with penalties for utilities that fail to comply.
Other programs that were originally intended to be permanent will expire in a year or two, such as the Expanded Child Tax Credit and Expanded Medicaid.
Other plans were still on the razor’s edge as of Monday, such as a plan to expand medicare to include hearing, vision and dental coverage. This plan is popular with voters and members of Congress, but it is also expensive, and is expected to cost around $ 350 billion over a decade.
Over the weekend, Pelosi acknowledged that Democrats were considering cutting the most expensive of the three Medicare services, dental care, in order to cut costs. âDental care is very expensive,â she told CNN.
The Medicare issue was further complicated Monday afternoon by reports that Manchin does not support any expansion of the program.
Another provision being overhauled on Monday was paid family leave, a centerpiece of Biden’s pledge that his bill would ease the financial burden on working families.
Democrats initially wanted 12 weeks of guaranteed paid family and medical leave for every American worker, a benefit that is expected to cost nearly $ 500 billion over a decade.
However, as the negotiations progressed, this plan was scaled back. At the end of last week, the White House was working on a plan to offer 4 weeks of paid time off to low-income workers, who are more likely to work in jobs that do not offer paid time off.
But that, too, met late opposition from Manchin, NBC News reported on Monday, citing multiple sources.
As the negotiations dragged on and became increasingly tense, the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress worked hard to keep their caucus focused on a common goal and to prevent political disagreements between parties from becoming public fights.
On Sunday, Biden hosted Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for breakfast at his Delaware home. Rarely do presidents host individual members of Congress for a meal, let alone on a Sunday at the president’s private residence. The meeting underscored Manchin’s central role in the outcome of this week’s talks.
As to what negotiators could achieve this week, Manchin said he believed there would be a “conceptual framework” by the end of the week.
The question of whether a “conceptual framework” of social spending is sufficient to satisfy progressives in the House is a big unanswered question.
House progressives have already blocked two planned votes on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
However, costs aren’t the only part of the bill that was still outstanding on Monday. The same was true of how to pay, especially after Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema said last week that she so far opposed two pillars of the Democratic plan: a rate hike. corporate taxation at 25% or 26% and a return to the Trump front. maximum personal tax rate of 35%.
Without these sources of revenue, Democrats are forced to go further in search of money to pay for their plans.
More and more people are heating up at the idea of ââa “billionaire’s tax,” a special tax on the 800 or so richest Americans.
Not so long ago, this kind of laser focus on taxing billionaires was only embraced by the far left wing of the party.
“We will probably have a wealth tax,” Pelosi told CNN. âBut, again, that’s only 10% of what we needâ to pay for the plan.
Other proposals include a stronger IRS enforcement that would include giving the tax agency access to records of bank accounts that receive $ 10,000 or more in non-salary deposits.
Also on the table is a global minimum corporate tax rate, a plan that has gained support this year among developed countries, but is still in its infancy.
— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed reporting from Keany, NJ