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Biden: Budget Talks Hit ‘Stalemate,’ $3.5T May Take a While

September 24, 2021by Lisa Mascaro and Jonathan Lemire, Associated Press
President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 response and vaccinations in the State Dining Room of the White House, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Friday that talks over his $3.5 trillion rebuilding plan have hit a “stalemate” in Congress as he made the case for his expansive effort to recast the nation’s tax and spending programs and make what he sees as sweeping, overdue investments.

Biden spoke at the White House as Democrats in the House and Senate are laboring to finish drafts and overcome differences between the party’s centrist and moderate factions. Despite efforts by the president and congressional leaders to show progress, Biden cast the road ahead as long and potentially cumbersome, even with upcoming deadlines.

“We’re getting down to the hard spot here,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “We’re at this stalemate at the moment.”

Biden said the process is “going to be up and down” but “hopefully at the end of the day I’ll be able to deliver on what I said I would do.”

The president said his private meetings with some two dozen Democratic lawmakers this week in efforts to hasten progress and close the deal went well — describing the tone as collegial and with “no hollering.” 

But as lawmakers raised objections over the sweep and scope of the plan, which is to be funded by higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, Biden said he tried to get them focused on priorities — what they can and can’t live with. 

“It’s about paying your fair share, for lord’s sake,” Biden said. “There clearly is enough, from a panoply of options, to pay for whatever it is.”

In a stark reality check, Biden suggested talks could drag to the end of the year. “It’s just going to take some time,” he said.

Congress is racing toward a deadline Monday for a test vote on the first part of his package, a $1 trillion public works bill that has become snared in the broader debate. With Republicans lockstep against Biden’s entire plan, Democrats must heft the votes to passage on their own, with slim majority control of the House and Senate that allows for no defections.

At the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said both bills are moving forward.

“It is my intention to bring our bills to the floor when we are ready,” she said. 

Lawmakers are working nonstop and Biden is facing pressure to close the deal. Pelosi was meeting Friday at the Capitol with her leadership team, and the Budget Committee is planning a rare Saturday session to draft the package.

Biden’s big vision over his “Build Back Better” campaign promise proposes expanding health, education and federal programs, with more services for Americans of all ages, while investing heavily in efforts to tackle climate change. All this would be paid for largely by hiking tax rates on corporations and wealthy individuals, those earning beyond $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for married couples. 

But centrist Democrats see the overall price tag as too much, while progressive lawmakers are hesitant to compromise any further after already having dropped even more ambitious ideas.

___

Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report. 

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