Biden, Manchin huddle over infrastructure bill, still no deal

Infrastructure

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Pivotal Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin appears to be on board with White House proposals for new taxes on billionaires and certain corporations to help pay for President Joe Biden’s scaled-back social services and climate change package.

Biden huddled with the conservative West Virginia Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the president’s Delaware home Sunday as they work on resolving the disputes between centrists and progressives that have stalled the Democrats’ wide-ranging bill. A person who requested anonymity to discuss Manchin’s position told The Associated Press the senator is agreeable to the White House’s new approach on the tax proposals.

What had been a sweeping $3.5 trillion plan is now being eyed as $1.75 trillion package. That’s within a range that could still climb considerably higher, according to a second person who requested anonymity to discuss the private talks.

Democrats are working intensely to try again to wrap up talks on the measure so the president can spotlight his administration’s achievements to world leaders at two overseas summits on the economy and climate change that get underway this week. It seems unlikely that any Republican will support the measure.

It’s unclear what level of the new taxes Manchin would support, but he generally backs the White House proposals, according to the person who requested anonymity to discuss Manchin’s position.

The White House said the breakfast meeting was a “productive discussion” about the president’s agenda. The talks appeared to last for hours, but no decisions were announced. The Democrats “continued to make progress,” the White House said in its post-meeting statement.

Resolving the revenue side is key, as the Democrats insist the new spending will be fully paid for by the various taxes.

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Manchin and another Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have almost on their own halted Biden’s proposal from advancing. With Republican opposition and an evenly split 50-50 Senate, Biden has no votes to spare, and the two Democratic senators have insisted on reducing the size of the enormous package and pressed for other changes.

One key debate has been over the revenues to pay for the package, after Sinema rejected an earlier plan to reverse the Republican-led 2017 tax cuts and raise rates on corporations earning more than $5 million a year and wealthy Americans earning more than $400,000, or $450,000 for couples.

Instead, the White House is considering a tax on the investment incomes of billionaires — fewer than 1,000 of the wealthiest Americans with at least $1 billion in assets. It also has floated a 15% corporate minimum tax that is designed to ensure all companies pay what Biden calls their “fair share” — ending the practice of some big-name firms paying no taxes.

Democrats initially planned that Biden’s package would contain $3.5 trillion worth of spending and tax initiatives over 10 years. But demands by moderates led by Manchin and Sinema to contain costs mean its final price tag could well be less than $2 trillion.

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Disputes remain over far-reaching investments, including plans to expand Medicare coverage with dental, vision and hearing aid benefits for seniors; child care assistance; and free pre-kindergarten.

Manchin, whose state has a major coal industry, has opposed Biden’s initial climate change proposals, which involved a plan to penalize utilities that do not switch quickly to clean energy. Democrats are now also compiling other climate change strategies to meet Biden’s goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030.

Democrats were hoping Biden could cite major accomplishments when he attends a global conference in Scotland on climate change in early November after attending a summit of world leaders in Rome.

Biden visited a preschool in New Jersey to push the bill on Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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