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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Biden vows to ‘get it done’ as talks on $3.5T plan

by Lisa Mascaro and Zeke Miller

WASHINGTON (AP) – Taking his stand on Congress’s home turf, President Joe Biden vowed Friday at the Capitol to “get it done” as Democrats rolled out a scaled-back version of his $3.5 trillion government-overhaul plan. Pressurized to save and rescue the concerned. Even after several days of negotiations on the Public Works Bill, no agreement was reached.

Biden attended a private meeting with House Democrats that was partly instructional, a morale booster for a torn caucus of lawmakers, telling them he wanted both bills passed regardless of timing. to be done. He allowed anonymity to discuss the negotiations, according to a person in the room where he discussed a settlement topline of $1.9 trillion to $2.3 trillion.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s six minutes, six days or six weeks — we’re going to get it done,” Biden told reporters as he left a basement meeting at the Capitol.

Action in Congress has stalled despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s insistence there would be a “vote today” on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that is popular but has been mired in debate over Biden’s sweeping measure. Voting on Friday looked increasingly impossible, putting the president’s larger domestic agenda in doubt as talks dragged on.

Holdout Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia dashed hopes of a swift settlement, despite hours of shuttle diplomacy late Thursday night with White House aides on Capitol Hill, when he announced a smaller overall package of about $1.5 trillion. refused to budge on his demands. It does little for progressive lawmakers who are refusing to vote on a public works measure without a commitment to Biden’s broader framework on the big bill.

A deal in the $2 trillion range was negotiated. But with Munchkin moving in, a quick deal was becoming inaccessible for the present. Still, Biden’s visit was welcomed by Democrats, who have complained of not hearing enough from the president about the way forward.

“It’s time for him to stand up,” said Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips.

Because of the ongoing negotiations, Biden opted to stay in Washington on Friday instead of traveling to his Delaware home, as he often does on weekends. According to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center, his public approval ratings have plummeted. The White House said the president also plans to travel to other cities next week to ensure that his historic measures will help the American people.

The president and his party are facing a potentially embarrassing setback – and perhaps a politically disastrous collapse of the entire enterprise – if they cannot resolve the impasse.

Biden’s big proposal is a years-long collection of Democratic priorities, a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax and spending policies that would essentially raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy and divert that money back to government health care, education and more. . programs, touching the lives of countless Americans.

Biden says the final price tag is zero, because tax revenues will cover the cost of the expense — the high rate on businesses earning more than $5 million per year, and individuals earning more than $400,000 per year, or couples. for $450,000.

“We understand that we have to get everyone on board to be able to close this deal,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., leader of the Congress Progressive Caucus. “We’re looking forward to it.”

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Frustrated and with their trust shattered, centrist Democrats watched the promised vote slip on the first piece of Biden’s proposal, a $1 trillion public works bill, a roads and bridges package, as progressives ramped up their leverage. was flexed.

During a private caucus meeting on Friday, Pelosi asked lawmakers whether they supported the infrastructure package, and most did, according to those in the room. But Pelosi has few votes left and appeared willing not to risk failure.

Instead, the House and Senate were set to swiftly approve a 30-day extension of surface transportation programs, which end with the fiscal year, with the leave of more than 3,500 federal transportation workers halted. It also creates a new deadline for acting on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

The attention of White House and Democratic leaders is focused on Manchin and to a lesser extent on Sen. Kirsten Cinema of Arizona, two centrist Democrats who helped the public works bill get Senate passage, but worry that Biden’s overall bill is too large. Is. The two senators have angered allies with their close talks that could stall Biden’s effort — and his own campaign promises.

“I’m ready to sit down and work on $1.5,” Manchin told reporters on Thursday, as protesters demanding a bigger package and Biden’s priorities chanted behind him outside the Capitol.

After hours of talks that lasted near midnight Thursday, Munchkin said he could not reach a settlement yet. “I don’t see a deal tonight. I really don’t,” Munchkin told reporters as he moved on.

The political stakes could hardly be higher. Biden and his party are reaching for a colossal legislative achievement – ​​vision, dental and hearing care for seniors, free kindergartens for youth, strategies to tackle climate change and more – with a slim majority in Congress to deliver. Promise.

Advancing the package is testing not only Biden, but Pelosi and some key figures in the Democratic Party, whose legacy will be shaped by the season, whether they succeed or fail.

“As you all know, we are fighting for transformative legislation; These discussions go on month after month,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, chairman of the budget committee and a prominent progressive lawmaker. “This is not a baseball game. This is the most important law in 70 years.”

With Republicans all in opposition to the president’s big plan, ridiculing it as a slide for socialist-style spending, Biden is reaching for a deal with members of his own party for a signature policy achievement.

It is not only Manchin’s demand that he reduce the overall size, but the terms he is insisting are irritating his more liberal allies. For example, he wants to make sure that aid goes only to low-income people, and not to a broader swath of Americans. And he is resisting some bold efforts to tackle climate change.

Tensions escalated late Wednesday when Munchkin sent out a furious statement, calling the widespread spending “fiscal insanity.”

Democrats’ campaign promises were on the line, progressive lawmakers were outraged, sparks were flying at holdout senators.

Representative Ilhan Omar, D-Min., another Progressive leader, pointedly pointed his criticism at Manchin’s comments.

“Trying to kill the agenda of your party is madness,” she said.


Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire, Kevin Freaking, Brian Slodisco and Padmananda Ram contributed to this report.

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