Biden Scales Back $2T Plan 10/20 06:55
Scaling down his ambitious domestic agenda, President Joe Biden has
described a more limited vision to Democratic lawmakers of his $2 trillion
package for addressing climate change and expanding social services.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Scaling down his ambitious domestic agenda, President Joe
Biden has described a more limited vision to Democratic lawmakers of his $2
trillion package for addressing climate change and expanding social services.
Likely to be eliminated or shaved back: plans for tuition-free community
colleges, a path to permanent legal status for certain immigrants in the U.S.
and a clean energy plan that was the centerpiece of Biden's strategy for
fighting climate change.
The president met privately Tuesday with nearly 20 centrist and progressive
lawmakers in separate groups as Democrats appeared ready to abandon what had
been a loftier $3.5 trillion package in favor of a smaller, more workable
proposal that can unite the party and win passage in the closely divided
Child tax credits, paid family leave, health care and free pre-kindergarten
are still in the mix, according to details shared by those familiar with the
conversation and granted anonymity to discuss the private meetings.
Biden felt "more confident" after the day of meetings, said press secretary
Jen Psaki. "There was broad agreement that there is urgency in moving forward
over the next several days and that the window for finalizing a package is
closing," she said.
After months of fits and starts, Democrats are growing anxious they have
little to show voters despite their campaign promises. Biden's ideas are all to
be funded by tax hikes on corporations and the wealthiest individuals, those
earning more than $400,000 a year.
The president especially wants to advance his signature domestic package to
bolster federal social services and address climate change by the time he
departs for a global climate summit next week.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a progressive caucus member, said Biden urged the
lawmakers to "get something done now" to show U.S. leadership on climate change
on the global stage.
"He really believes American leadership, American prestige is on the line,"
A key holdout on Biden's proposals, conservative Sen. Joe Manchin from
coal-state West Virginia, has made clear he opposes the president's initial
Clean Energy Performance Plan, which would have the government impose penalties
on electric utilities that fail to meet clean energy benchmarks and provide
financial rewards to those that do -- in line with Biden's goal of achieving
80% "clean electricity" by 2030.
Instead, Biden focused in his Tuesday meetings on providing at least $500
billion in tax credits, grants and loans to fight climate change, much of it
likely coming from a package compiled by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chairman
of the the Finance Committee. Those include the tax breaks for energy producers
that reach emission-reduction goals.
That clean energy approach could better align with Manchin's stated goal of
keeping a "fuel neutral" approach to federal policy that does not favor
renewable energy sources over coal and natural gas that are dominant in his
Other climate-change-fighting proposals being considered are a tax on carbon
dioxide emissions from fossil fuels such as oil and coal or a methane emissions
fee -- though Manchin told reporters earlier in the day that a carbon tax was
not in the mix.
Failure to act on climate change would have far-reaching consequences in the
U.S. and abroad. Inaction, proponents of big efforts say, could cost the U.S.
billions of dollars in weather-related disasters and threaten to uproot
millions of Americans in hurricanes, wildfires, droughts and floods.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., another progressive caucus member, called the
opposition from Manchin on climate issues "one of the biggest challenges"
threatening to stop a final bill.
On other fronts, Biden and the Democrats appeared to be more readily
coalescing around a slimmed-down package.
Biden wants to extend the $300 monthly child tax credit that was put in
place during the COVID-19 crisis for another year, rather than allow it to
expire in December.
The policy has been praised for sending cash to families most in need.
Democrats want to extend the credit for additional years, but limiting the
duration would help shave the costs. It's now to be phased out for
single-parent households earning more than $75,000 a year, or $150,000 for
couples, but those income thresholds could be lowered to meet demands of
Manchin and more conservative Democrats.
What had been envisioned as a months-long federal paid family leave program
could be shrunk to as few as four weeks.
Biden also wants to ensure funding for health care programs, including new
money for home- and community-based health care services, supporting a move
away from widespread nursing home care.
And a new program to provide dental, vision and hearing aid benefits to
people on Medicare proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from
Vermont, is likely to remain in some fashion, said Khanna, a longtime Sanders
Expected to still be included in the package are new subsidies to help
families afford child care as well as increased subsidies put in place during
the pandemic for people who buy their own health insurance.
Biden told lawmakers that after his top priorities there would be $300
billion remaining, which some suggested could be used for housing aid and
racial justice issues. Biden also mentioned money could go for retrofitting
homes of low-income people.
But Biden's vision for free community college for all is falling by the
"It's not the robust vision the president wants or that we wanted," Khanna
At a lengthy and "lively" lunch of Democratic senators earlier in the day,
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said there was "universal agreement in
that room that we have to come to an agreement and we got to get it done."
Biden met at the White House for nearly two hours with the first group of
lawmakers, progressives, who emerged confident a deal was within reach.
Moderate lawmakers met for about 90 minutes into the evening.
"Everybody's talking," said Manchin, who had his own meeting Tuesday with
For months, Manchin and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have
objected to the scope and scale of Biden's package, testing the patience of
colleagues who see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape government
programs. Sinema missed the senators lunch, but had a separate meeting with
With Republicans fully opposed to Biden's plans, the president needs all
Democrats in the 50-50 split Senate for passage and can only spare a few votes
in the House.
Congress has set an Oct. 31 deadline for passage.