By David Morgan and Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Democrats are close to agreeing on an overall price tag for U.S. President Joe Biden’s ambitious expansion of social programs, centrist Senator Joe Manchin said on Thursday, though there are no guarantees they will reach a deal. They have spent months arguing about the size and scope […]
U.S. Democrats near deal on price tag for Biden’s social bill, Manchin says
By David Morgan and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Democrats are close to agreeing on an overall price tag for U.S. President Joe Biden’s ambitious expansion of social programs, centrist Senator Joe Manchin said on Thursday, though there are no guarantees they will reach a deal.
They have spent months arguing about the size and scope of what was initially proposed as a $3.5 trillion plan to expand the social safety net and fight climate change, which key Democrats this week have agreed will be cut https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-biden-infrastructure-details-fact-idUSKBN2HA29X to well below $2 trillion.
Manchin – who, along with fellow moderate Senator Kyrsten Sinema, has been pushing for a smaller package – said he believed Democratic negotiators could settle on a final figure by Friday. That would resolve a key sticking point, though progressives and moderates would still have to sort out the substance of the bill, including what programs to keep, what to cut, and how long to fund them for.
“We’re looking at everything today and tomorrow and hopefully we can either have a framework: We agree or disagree and (it) is either irreconcilable or it is something we can work out,” Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill.
“I think we are getting close to arranging a top-line” figure, he said.
Fellow Democratic Senator Jon Tester also said lawmakers were close to a final price tag.
“That’s what will allow us to move forward. You get the top-line number, we’re off and running,” Tester told reporters at the Capitol.
Biden told lawmakers on Tuesday he thought he could get Manchin and Sinema to agree to a figure in the range of $1.75 trillion to $1.9 trillion, according to a source familiar with the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Getting to that number would mean giving up priorities, including a plan to offer all Americans the opportunity to attend two years of free community college, and scaling back others such as a child tax credit and funds for affordable housing.
Disagreements over the scale of the bill have held up Biden’s domestic agenda, with progressives in the House of Representatives refusing to vote for a $1 trillion infrastructure bill already passed by the Senate until a deal is reached on social programs and climate change.
Taxes remain a sticking point as well; Sinema has told the White House she will not support Biden’s proposed rate increases for corporations and wealthy individuals. The White House told some Democrats https://www.reuters.com/world/us/white-house-tells-democrats-corporate-tax-hike-unlikely-congressional-source-2021-10-20 this week that the corporate tax hikes may be dead.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the final package could contain no tax rate increases at all. She said her priority remained an agreement that could pass both the Senate and the House, where Democrats hold narrow majorities. Other details – like whether the package will include clean-energy incentives or a child tax credit – remain secondary as long as they get Biden’s approval, she said.
“If it’s acceptable to him, in light of the bill, it’s acceptable to me,” she told a news briefing.
During a visit to his native Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, Biden said https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-heads-birthplace-tout-infrastructure-spending-packages-2021-10-20 the social spending legislation, plus the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, would create 2 million jobs a year for 20 years and not raise the deficit.
(Reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Tim Gardner; writing by Andy Sullivan; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)