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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Late night Democrats to salvage Biden’s $3.5T deal

by Lisa Mascaro

WASHINGTON (AP) – Determined not to let his $3.5 trillion government collapse, President Joe Biden approved his schedule late Thursday and Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed the House into an evening session as Democratic leaders had worked to negotiate a scale-back plan centrist holdout. Accept.

At immediate risk was a promised vote, yet late Thursday, on the first piece of Biden’s proposal, a slim $1 trillion public works bill that is widely supported but stalled talks on his more ambitious package. The middle has faltered. Progressives are refusing to roll back the roads and bridges bill, which they consider inadequate, until progress is made on Biden’s broader plan that is the heart of the Democratic agenda. In the narrowly held House, Pelosi has few votes left.

There is a deep divide between Democrats, and there is a risk of an embarrassing setback – if not the collapse of the entire enterprise – if they cannot resolve the impasse over Biden’s larger vision. After days of talks, those differences only deepened when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced he was ready to go toward the presidential sweeping package — $1.5 trillion — not half as much as the president wants.

When Biden was working on the phone and top White House officials arrived at Pelosi’s office, he was trying to defuse the impasse and salvage the president’s vision. The idea is to reach agreement outlining Biden’s comprehensive package, moving forward with a $1 trillion public works bill and negotiating the rest of Biden’s larger health care, education and climate change bill in the coming days. The lawmakers were told to stay up late into the night for possible votes.

It all happened on a day that saw a partial victory for Democrats, Congress passage and Biden signing legislation to get the government running before Thursday’s fiscal year-end deadline and averting a federal shutdown, which Republicans were threatened by the blockade.

“Step by step,” Pelosi said at Capital, suggesting a deal was within reach.

“This is the way – it’s not a fork in the road,” she said.

As Biden and his party reach a colossal legislative feat—with a reduced majority in Congress promising a vast rewrite of the nation’s tax and spending plans—the political stakes are hardly high. Biden’s sweeping proposal would essentially raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy and divert that money back to government health care, education and other programs, all of which is touching the lives of countless Americans.

At the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that the process looked messy from the outside, the “sausage-making” of Capitol Hill. But he indicated that progress was being made.

The Public Works bill is a piece of that broader Biden vision, a $1 trillion investment in regular transportation, broadband, water systems and other projects strengthened with additional funding. It garnered bipartisan support in the Senate but is now mired in widespread debate.

Kirsten Cinema of Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kirsten of Arizona, centrist Democrats who helped pass that bipartisan bill, but they worry Biden’s overall bill is too large. He has angered allies by not making any counter-proposal public.

As part of the investigation, Manchin convened an urgent press conference outside the Capitol on Thursday, insisting he was clear from the start.

“I’m ready to sit down and work on $1.5,” Munchkin told reporters, as protesters demanded a bigger package and chanted Biden’s priorities behind them.

Manchin said he told the president as much during his talks this week, and confirmed that he put his thoughts on paper during an earlier conversation with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this summer.

It is not only Manchin’s demand to reduce the overall size, but the terms he seeks on the new spending, that will anger his more liberal allies as he works to ensure that aid is available only to low-income people. for the sake of the wider interests of Americans. Tensions escalated late Wednesday when Munchkin sent out a furious statement, calling the widespread spending “fiscal insanity.”

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Cinema was similarly working to brush off criticism and her office said it was not making the claim that she was “false” – although she has not publicly disclosed her views on what size package she will receive. and has declined to answer questions about her condition.

Cinema has put dollar figures on the table and continues to “be directly involved in goodwill discussions” with both Biden and Schumer, spokesman John LaBombard said in a statement.

The centrist senators’ refusal to call off talks with Biden angered progressive lawmakers and almost ensured they would tank the bipartisan public works bill if there was no end to White House talks.

Democrats’ campaign promises on the line, with Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, walking out of Pelosi’s office, saying progressives’ views were unchanged — they would not vote for one bill without another and would stay the whole weekend. . get a deal.

“Inaction is madness,” said another progressive leader, D-Min., Rep. Ilhan Omar, clarifying his criticism of Manchin’s comments.

“Trying to kill the agenda of your party is madness. Trying not to make sure that the president we all worked so hard to elect has an agenda pass, madness. “

In a deep party split, centrists warned of canceling Thursday’s vote “as a breach of trust that would slow the momentum going forward in delivering the Biden agenda,” the representative said. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., a leader of Centrist Blue. Dog Democrat.

At the same time, Congress mostly addressed a more immediate crisis, putting a law last Thursday funded by Republicans to raise the nation’s debt limits to keep the government at the end of the fiscal year and avoid a dangerous default on lending. Arising after refusing to approve.

The Senate on Thursday voted to provide government funding to avoid the federal shutdown, temporarily continuing operations through December 3. The House quickly complied, and Biden signed the bill on Thursday evening.

The debt ceiling debate shifts to October, ahead of another deadline when the Treasury Department has warned it will run out of money to pay past bills.

With Republican opposition in lockstep 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 legislative feat. .

Together, sans Manchin and cinema have the key to unlocking the impasse over Biden’s broader vision, which is the heart of his 2020 campaign, but they partake in private talks on the specifics and on them, according to a person familiar with the matter. Allow anonymity to discuss.

It appears Manchin has fewer questions about the revenue side of the equation – higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy – than spending plans and specific policies, particularly those related to climate change for his coal-focused state. are important.

The cinema focuses its questions on a menu of tax options, including the increased corporate rate, which some in the business community argue could make the US less competitive overseas, and the individual rate that others warn. , can trap small business owners.

Biden insists that the price tag would be virtually zero because the expansion of government programs would largely be paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy — businesses that make more than $5 million per year, and individuals who make over $5 million per year. Earn over 400,000, or add up to $450,000

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Associated Press writers Marie Claire Jalonik, Brian Slodisko and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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