Biden’s big plan in race to finish
WASHINGTON — Half its original size, President Joe Biden’s big domestic policy plan is being pulled apart and reconfigured as Democrats edge closer to satisfying their most reluctant colleagues and finishing what’s now about a $1.75 trillion package.
How to pay for it all remained deeply in flux Tuesday, with a proposed billionaires’ tax running into criticism as cumbersome or worse. That’s forcing difficult reductions, if not the outright elimination, of policy priorities — from paid family leave to child care to dental, vision and hearing aid benefits for seniors.
The once hefty climate change strategies are losing some punch, too, focusing away from punitive measures on polluters in a shift toward instead rewarding clean energy incentives.
Pressure mounting, Biden met Tuesday evening with two holdout Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, according to a person who requested anonymity to discuss the private meeting. The president is pushing for an agreement before he departs for global summits later this week.
All told, Biden’s package remains a substantial undertaking — and could still top $2 trillion in perhaps the largest effort of its kind from Congress in decades. But it’s far slimmer than the president and his party first envisioned.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told lawmakers they were on the verge of “something major, transformative, historic and bigger than anything else” ever attempted in Congress, according to another person who requested anonymity to share her private remarks to the caucus.
“We know that we are close,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, after a meeting with Biden at the White House. “And let me be explicitly clear: Our footprints and fingerprints are on this.”
However, vast differences among Democrats remain over basic contours of the sweeping proposal and the tax revenue to pay for it.
From the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden still hoped to have a deal in hand to show foreign leaders the U.S. government was performing effectively on climate change and other major issues. But she acknowledged that might not happen, forcing him to keep working on the package from afar.