Written by Lisa Mascaro and Alan Fram
WASHINGTON (Associated Press) – President Joe Biden appeared unable Wednesday night to strike a quick deal with two vacillating Democratic senators trying to scale back his potentially historic $3.5 trillion measures that would collapse without their support.
With Republicans vehemently opposed and Democrats unavailable, Biden canceled a trip to Chicago that was supposed to focus on COVID-19 vaccines so he could seek out a full day of intense negotiations before crucial votes. Aides made their way to Capitol Hill for talks, and late in the day supportive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met Biden at the White House.
The risks were clear, but so was the potential reward when Biden and his party reached a giant legislative feat — promising a major rewrite of the state budget with a narrow majority in Congress. His idea is mainly to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy and use that money to expand government health care, education, and other programs—an effect that countless Americans will be feeling.
“We take it one step at a time,” Pelosi told reporters.
Attention is focused on Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Sinema of Arizona, centrist Democrats. They share the concern that the overall size of Biden’s plan is too large, but have angered colleagues by not announcing any counter-proposals.
In a potentially ominous sign, Manchin sent a fiery statement late Wednesday, denouncing the massive spending as “financial insanity” and warning that it would not get its vote without amendments. “I can’t – and won’t – support trillions in spending or an all-or-nothing approach,” he said.
Together, the two senators hold the keys to resolving the stalemate over Biden’s overarching vision, the heart of his campaign pledges. While neither of them have said no to a deal, they haven’t yet said yes — but they are breaking up with some details, according to a person familiar with the private conversations and granted anonymity to discuss them.
Manchin appears to have fewer questions about the revenue side of the equation — higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy — than about spending plans and private policies, especially those on climate change that are important to his coal-centric nation. He wants any expansion of assistance programs for Americans to be based on income needs, not just for everyone.
Although Sinema is less publicly open in her views, she focuses her questions on the list of tax options, including the corporate rate increase that some in the business community argue could make the United States less competitive abroad and the per capita rate that others warn of It may be small. business owners.
With Democrats’ campaign promises at stake, Congressional Progressive Caucus chairwoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington State said of Manchin, “He needs to either make us an offer or this whole thing isn’t going to happen.”
Pelosi has suggested she might postpone Thursday’s vote on a trillion-dollar public works measure wanted by Mansion, Cinema and other centrists, but progressives threaten defeat unless there is action on Biden’s broader package.
Thursday’s vote is seen as a pressure point for senators and other centrist lawmakers to reach a deal with Biden. But with Mansion and Cinema digs, that seemed unlikely.
According to a White House statement to the president’s meeting with congressional leaders, “both bills are priorities that must be passed.”
At the same time, Congress is beginning to resolve a more pressing crisis that has arisen after Republicans refused to pass legislation to preserve government funding for the past fiscal year on Thursday and raise the country’s debt limit to avoid a dangerous default in borrowing.
Democrats are separating government funding and voting on the debt ceiling into two bills, clearing the heated debate over the debt limit for another day, closer to the separate deadline in October.
The Senate is set to vote Thursday on providing government funding to avoid a federal shutdown, with operations to continue temporarily through December 3. The House of Representatives is expected to follow quickly.
With Biden and his party pursuing what could be a landmark political achievement, there is a strong sense of progress on the big bill, said an administration official, who asked not to be identified to discuss the private conversations.
The president is highly engaged, meeting separately with Manchin and Cinema at the White House this week and speaking on the phone with the lawmakers who make up the package. He even appeared at the annual Congressional baseball game Wednesday night, in a goodwill gesture during the rare bipartisan event between lawmakers.
To strike a deal, Democrats are preparing to scale back Biden’s mega-scale tax proposals and spending targets to reach the overall size required by Mansion and Cinema.
“I think it’s clear that we’re in the middle of a negotiation and everyone has to give a little,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
Psaki said members of Congress are “not well off walls” but have a range of opinions. We listen, share and negotiate. But in the end, there are strong views and what we are working to do is come to an agreement.”
Besides senators, Biden’s problems with fellow Democrats also include a small number of centrist House Democrats who are also raring about the far-reaching scope of his domestic agenda, which would expand health care, education and climate change programs, all of which are driven by the House. Higher tax rates.
Progressive lawmakers are warning to cut too much, saying they have already made enough concessions, and threatening to withhold support for the accompanying trillion-dollar measure of public works that they say is too meager without the guarantee of Biden’s larger package.
But centrists warned against canceling Thursday’s vote as a “breach of confidence that would slow momentum forward in advancing Biden’s agenda,” said Representative Stephanie Murphy, Democrat of Florida, and leader of the centrist Democratic Blue Dog.
Republicans oppose Biden’s larger vision, deriding the $3.5 trillion package as a slide toward socialism and government interference in Americans’ lives.
Biden insists that the price will actually be zero because the expansion of government programs will be paid for largely with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy — companies that earn more than $5 million a year, and individuals who earn more than $400,000 a year, or 450 one thousand dollars. couples.
The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to extend the debt limit through December 16, but it is doubtful that the Democrats’ bill will pass the Senate in the face of Republican opposition — postponing that debate for another day.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has told Congress she has until October 18, when her department is likely to exhaust all “extraordinary measures” taken to avoid defaulting on government commitments.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Marie Claire Galonic, Kevin Fring, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.