Loading...

Biden Intensifies Talks, With Big Overhaul Plans at Stake

September 29, 2021by Lisa Mascaro and Alan Fram, Associated Press
Biden Intensifies Talks, With Big Overhaul Plans at Stake
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a centrist Democrat vital to the fate of President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion domestic agenda, is surrounded by reporters outside the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. Manchin and other senators were boarding a bus to attend a memorial service for the late Susan Bayh, the wife of former Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, who died earlier in the year. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — His government overhaul plans at stake, President Joe Biden appeared determined Wednesday to strike agreement with two wavering Democratic senators, likely trimming back the size of his potentially historic $3.5 trillion measure that will collapse without their support.

With Republicans solidly opposed and no Democratic votes to spare, Biden canceled a trip to Chicago that was to focus on COVID-19 vaccinations so he could dig in for another day of intense negotiations ahead of crucial votes. Aides made their way to Capitol Hill for talks, and late in the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were headed to the White House to meet with Biden.

The risks are clear, but so is the potential reward as Biden and his party reach for a giant legislative accomplishment — promising a vast rewrite of the nation’s balance sheet with an ever-slim majority in Congress. His idea is to essentially raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy and use that money to expand government health care, education and other programs — an impact that would be felt in countless American lives.

“We take it one step at a time,” Pelosi, told reporters at the Capitol.

Attention is focused on Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, centrist Democrats. They share a concern that the overall size of Biden’s plan is too big, but part ways on specifics, according to a person familiar with the private talks and granted anonymity to discuss them.

Manchin appears to have fewer question about the revenue side of the equation — the higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy — than the spending plans and particular policies, especially those related to climate change that are important to his coal-centric state. He wants any expansion of aid programs to American to be based on income needs, not simply for everyone.

Though Sinema is less publicly open in her views, she focuses her questions on the menu of tax options, including the increased corporate rate that some in the business community argue could make the U.S. less competitive overseas and the individual rate that others warn could snare small business owners.

Together, the two senators hold the keys to unlocking the stalemate over Biden’s sweeping vision, the heart of his campaign pledges. While neither has said no to a deal, they have yet to signal yes, leaving talks in a grind of complicated negotiations.

In a fiery statement late Wednesday, Manchin decried the broad spending as “fiscal insanity” and warned it would not get his vote without adjustments. “I cannot – and will not – support trillions in spending or an all-or-nothing approach,” he said.

Trouble ahead, Pelosi suggested she might postpone Thursday’s vote on a related $1 trillion public works measure that the centrist senators want but that progressives are threatening to defeat unless there’s movement on Biden’s broader package.

It’s a pressure point on the senators and other centrist lawmakers to strike an agreement with Biden, but with Manchin and Sinema dug, in that seemed unlikely. Manchin told reporters late Wednesday he did not believe a deal could be reached in time for that vote.

At the same time, Congress is starting to resolve a more immediate crisis that arose after Republicans refused to approve legislation to keep the government funded past Thursday’s fiscal yearend and raise the nation’s debt limit to avoid a dangerous default on borrowing. 

Democrats are separating the government funding and debt ceiling vote into two bills, stripping out the more-heated debate over the debt limit for another day, closer to a separate October deadline.

The Senate is poised to vote Thursday to provide government funding to avoid a federal shutdown, keeping operations going temporarily to Dec. 3. The House is expected to quickly follow.

With Biden and his party stretching to achieve what would be a signature policy achievement, there is a strong sense that progress is being made on the big bill said an administration official who requested anonymity to discuss the private talks.

The president is highly engaged, meeting separately with Manchin and Sinema at the White House this week and talking by phone with lawmakers shaping the package. Democrats are poised to trim the huge Biden measure’s tax proposals and spending goals to reach an overall size Manchin and Sinema are demanding.

“I think it’s pretty clear we’re in the middle of a negotiation and that everybody’s going to have to give a little,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Psaki said members of Congress “are not wallflowers” but have a range of views. “We listen, we engage, we negotiate. But ultimately, there are strong viewpoints and what we’re working to do is get to an agreement.”

Biden’s problems with fellow Democrats aren’t just in the Senate. A small number of centrist House Democrats also are bristling at the far-reaching scope of his domestic agenda, which would expand health care, education and climate change programs, all paid for by the higher tax rates. 

Progressive lawmakers warn against cutting too much, saying they have already compromised enough, and threatening to withhold support for the companion $1 trillion public works measure that they say is too meager without Biden’s bigger package assured. 

But centrists warned off canceling Thursday’s vote as a “breach of trust that would slow the momentum in moving forward in delivering the Biden agenda,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., a leader of the centrist Blue Dog Democrats.

Republicans are opposed to Biden’s bigger vision, deriding the $3.5 trillion package as a slide toward socialism and government intrusion on Americans lives.

Biden insists the price tag actually will be zero because the expansion of government programs would be largely paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy — businesses earning more than $5 million a year, and individuals earning more than $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for couples.

The House did vote Wednesday to extend the debt limit through through Dec. 16, but it’s doubtful that that Democratic bill will pass the Senate in the face of GOP opposition — shelving that debate for another day. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has told Congress it has until Oct. 18, wen her department will likely exhaust all of its “extraordinary measures” being taken to avoid a default on the government’s obligations.

___

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Mary Clare Jalonick, Kevin Freking, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

In The News

Health

Voting

In The News

January 26, 2022
by Dan McCue
Pelosi to Seek Reelection Despite Risk of Losing House Majority

WASHINGTON — After weeks of writing farewells for House Democrats who’ve decided to forego bids for reelection, House Speaker Nancy... Read More

WASHINGTON — After weeks of writing farewells for House Democrats who’ve decided to forego bids for reelection, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that she has no plans of joining them in retirement. “While we have made progress, much more needs to be done to improve... Read More

January 26, 2022
by Dan McCue
House Democrats Release Mammoth Plan for Boosting Competition With China

WASHINGTON — House Democrats late Tuesday night released the America COMPETES Act, a mammoth, 2,912-page bill aimed at boosting high... Read More

WASHINGTON — House Democrats late Tuesday night released the America COMPETES Act, a mammoth, 2,912-page bill aimed at boosting high tech research and ending, once and for all, the semiconductor crisis that has caused rippling supply chain disruptions and put a serious, if temporary, crimp on... Read More

January 26, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Village Designed for People With Dementia Reforms Traditional Nursing Homes

WEESP, Netherlands — Thirty years ago, the Hogeweyk stood as a four-story tower operating as a traditional nursing home in... Read More

WEESP, Netherlands — Thirty years ago, the Hogeweyk stood as a four-story tower operating as a traditional nursing home in an industrial area about 17 miles outside of central Amsterdam in the Netherlands.  “The way we delivered care back then, we weren’t happy with the outcomes,... Read More

January 26, 2022
by Dan McCue
Justice Stephen Breyer to Retire From Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — Justice Stephen Breyer, a pragmatic liberal who has served on the Supreme Court for nearly 28 years, is... Read More

WASHINGTON — Justice Stephen Breyer, a pragmatic liberal who has served on the Supreme Court for nearly 28 years, is expected to inform the White House today that he plans to step down at the end of this term. Pete Williams of NBC News was the... Read More

January 26, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
HHS Awards Grants to Help Reduce Health Care Provider Burnout

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, awarded $103 million... Read More

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, awarded $103 million in American Rescue Plan Funds to 45 grantees to help reduce health care provider burnout and promote mental health and wellness among the health care workforce.... Read More

EPA Acts on Environmental Justice in Three Gulf Coast States

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is taking a series of enforcement actions to address air pollution, unsafe drinking... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is taking a series of enforcement actions to address air pollution, unsafe drinking water and other problems afflicting minority communities in three Gulf Coast states, following a “Journey to Justice” tour by Administrator Michael Regan last fall. The agency will conduct... Read More

News From The Well
Exit mobile version