Democrats trim Biden's social spending plan as they rush to strike a deal this week

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the NJ TRANSIT Meadowlands Maintenance Complex, Kearny (New Jersey), U.S.A, October 25, 2021. Reuters
WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden is about to leave Thursday for a week in Europe. The White House and congressional Democrats are trying to reach an agreement on their signature domestic spending plan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring a companion bipartisan bill on infrastructure to the House floor to be voted before the president departs for Rome. If they succeed, The Senate has passed the bill and, if approved by the House, Biden could make it law this week. Biden was in New Jersey Monday to promote his infrastructure component of his two-part program. He said that the bill's funding for transportation and rail would provide good union jobs at a prevailing wages that are affordable enough to raise a family. "This will be the largest ever investment in public transport in America's history." Progressives in the House won't approve the infrastructure bill until Democrats reach an agreement on the terms for the social safety net expansion bill. Two centrist Democrats, Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Silema from Arizona, refuse to approve the spending plan in the Senate until they are satisfied with their demands. To satisfy Manchin, the spending bill's topline cost is being reduced from $3.5 trillion down to $1.5 to $2 trillion. Democrats need to rework their original plan of taxing the highest-earning individuals and corporations in order to win Sinema's support. This will pay for safety net expansion.

Make tough choices

Democrats have to make difficult decisions in order to lower the overall price tag. Many of Biden's campaign promises, such as free community college and the enactment of a clean electricity standard that imposes penalties on utilities who don't conform to it, have been abandoned. Others programs, which were originally intended to last a long time, will be cancelled in a year or so. These include the expanded Child Tax Credit and expanded Medicaid. There were still other plans on Monday. One plan was to expand Medicare coverage to include vision, hearing and dental care. The plan is popular among voters as well as members of Congress. However, it is also costly, with a projected cost of $350 billion over ten years. Pelosi revealed that Democrats are looking at whether to eliminate dental care from Medicare, the most costly of the three Medicare services. CNN reported that dental care is extremely expensive. Manchin, according to reports, does not support expanding Medicare.

Paid family leave was another provision that was reworked Monday. This is a key component of Biden’s promise to ease the financial burden for working families. In the beginning, Democrats wanted 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to every U.S. worker. This benefit was estimated to cost close $500 billion over a decade. As negotiations progressed, however this plan was reduced. The White House was currently working on a plan that would provide low-income workers with 4 weeks of paid vacation. This is because they are more likely than others to be employed in jobs that do not offer paid leave. NBC News Monday reported that Manchin has also opposed the plan. As negotiations drag on and become more tense, both the White House, and Democratic leaders in Congress, have worked hard to keep their caucus on track and prevent any inter-party disagreements from turning into public fights. Biden hosted Chuck Schumer and Senator Majority Leader Chuck Manchin for breakfast on Sunday at his Delaware home. It is rare for presidents and Congressmen to host one another for breakfast at their private residence on Sundays. This meeting highlighted Manchin's central role in this week's negotiations. Manchin stated that he believes there will be a "conceptual frame" by the end this week. It is unclear whether a "conceptual frame" for social spending will be enough to satisfy House progressives. Two scheduled votes on the bipartisan bill for infrastructure have been blocked by House progressives.

The tax scramble

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