Democrats, budget bill cut, push for compromise by weekend

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WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats said on Tuesday they hoped to reach a compromise on President Biden’s sprawling domestic policy plan by the end of the week, striving to show progress after weeks of public wrangling and private negotiations with centrist refractories.

The renewed urgency came as Mr Biden privately conceded that key elements of his social safety net and climate proposal were likely to be dropped or significantly downsized to accommodate a measure that would be much more smaller than the original $ 3.5 trillion plan Democrats sketched out. outside during the summer.

In a White House meeting on Tuesday, the president reiterated that the overall price would be around $ 2 trillion and suggested it could be as low as $ 1.75 trillion, two said. people familiar with the discussion. They also warned that details were still evolving. In recent days, Biden had already proposed spending between $ 1.9 trillion and $ 2.2 trillion over 10 years.

He told Democrats that a plan to provide two years of free community college should most likely be scrapped, according to lawmakers who attended. The concession came days after negotiators began to prepare to abandon a clean electricity program intended to help quickly replace coal and gas-fired power plants, opposed by Senator Joe Manchin III of Virginia- West, whose concerns about the package are at the root of the talks.

Mr Biden also raised the possibility of reducing the extension of monthly payments to families with children, potentially extending the program by one year with a permanent repayment, compared to the longer time frame sought by many Democrats, according to two familiar people. with threads.

The comprehensive bill was still to tackle climate change, expand health care benefits, provide some federal coverage for preschool and home care, and be funded entirely through tax increases. (Mr. Biden, according to attendees, focused largely on the proposed spending.)

Democrats are increasingly concerned about the fate of their renowned domestic policy plan amid intense divisions within their ranks over its contents and little information about private talks with two key centrist senators who pushed back its cost and scope: M. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona.

But Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, came out of a private lunch to announce that there had been “universal agreement in this room that we have to come to an agreement, and we have to do it.” , and we want to do it this week.

“Everyone is going to be disappointed with some things, but everyone is going to be happy with some things,” he added.

Speaking privately to lawmakers on Tuesday, Mr Biden said he wanted a deal before heading to Glasgow for a climate conference at the end of the month. He met separately with a group of moderate lawmakers and a group of liberals to discuss the new details of the plan.

As they question how to lower the bill, some Democrats have pushed to include fewer programs. But lawmakers have said many of the proposals in Mr Biden’s original plan look likely to stick around in one form or another, with shortened terms and limited eligibility.

“It’s not the number we want – we’ve always tried to make it as high as possible,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat from Washington and chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We’re focused on the idea that we can implement these programs, a multitude of programs, and make them work so that they deliver immediate transformational benefits to people. “

In order to bypass unanimous Republican opposition, Democrats are using a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation to shield it from obstruction. But they have yet to win the votes of their 50 senators and nearly all House Democrats.

With deadlines looming to keep government funding beyond Dec. 3 and avoid a first default on federal debt, Democrats are eager to wrap up work on their political ambitions.

Much of the effort to bridge party divisions has focused on Mr Manchin and Ms Sinema, both of whom met with Mr Biden on Tuesday. Ms Sinema missed lunch with Democratic senators because she was discussing the plan with senior White House officials.

Mr Manchin also met privately with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, chairman of the budget committee and champion of the original $ 3.5 trillion plan, according to an aide.

Mr. Biden, whom Democrats urged to take a more active role in the talks, spent much of Tuesday discussing the package with lawmakers from the party’s liberal and moderate wings.

“After a day of constructive meetings, the President is more confident tonight on the way forward to provide the American people with strong and sustained economic growth that benefits everyone,” said Jen Psaki, press secretary for the United States. White House, in a statement.

They have little time left to settle their differences. Some Democrats want to vote on a $ 1,000 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill by October 31, when a series of transportation programs will expire unless Congress takes action. But House progressives are withholding votes for the measure until the Senate passes the reconciliation bill. Some Democrats are hoping that if they can reach a compromise on the reconciliation measure, it will be enough to persuade the Liberals in the House to pass the infrastructure bill.

“One executive means different things to different people,” said Senator Tina Smith, Democrat of Minnesota. “To me that means there is a sufficiently detailed description of what we’re going to do, that I won’t be surprised when I see the legislative language, and I think it’s very possible.”

One of the biggest hurdles for Democrats is the reach of the climate provisions, after Mr Manchin rejected the clean electricity program and a carbon tax. (Senator Jon Tester of Montana, another key centrist, also said he was concerned about the tax.)

Democrats are in talks to reallocate $ 150 billion that had been earmarked for an effort to get electric utilities to cut emissions faster – something Manchin opposes – to fund instead of other efforts to combat climate change. These include additional tax credits for solar and nuclear power and the capture of carbon emissions from fossil-fueled power plants. They also include grants and loans to incentivize emissions reductions in steel, concrete and other industrial uses.

“We’re going with tax incentives – we’re going to push people basically to go ahead with the technology that we have,” Manchin said Tuesday. “We are going to take the best of technology and use it for the good of the world.”

But for Liberal Democrats, that may not be enough for legislation they see as their best chance to help counter the growing toll of climate change.

“There is a very clear concern, and we are going to work very, very hard to get legislation as strong as possible,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader. “In short: we need 51 votes in the Senate. “

Catie edmondson, Jim Tankersley and Chris Cameron contributed report.


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