WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden conferred Friday morning with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as they pressed to come up with an agreement among Democrats on the president’s economic agenda.
The high-level meeting comes as Democrats strive to wrap up negotiations on a roughly $2 trillion compromise version of Biden’s spending plan by the end of this weekend. Pelosi had breakfast with the president, with Schumer participating virtually, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Pelosi said afterward that she’s “hopeful” that the House and Senate could vote on a package of taxes and spending that would carry out a trimmed down version of Biden’s plans.
“Much of the bill has been written, we just need some decisions,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol afterward. “I would say more than 90% is agreed to and written.”
A deal on the social-spending package could allow the House to vote on a separate $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill that has been held up by progressive lawmakers who first want the agreement on the larger bill. Leaders have said they want to vote on the infrastructure bill before the Oct. 31 expiration of current highway funding.
Schumer earlier this week said he wanted to strike an agreement on a framework for Biden’s plans by Friday, but numerous disagreements on both revenue and spending remained. Democrats said they planned to continue negotiating through the weekend.
Getting a resolution this weekend will be a heavy lift. There’s not yet agreement on the top line for spending or on a range of revenue-raising measures to pay for it. Opposition by Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to raising the corporate and individual tax rates has forced Democrats to scramble to search for alternatives.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to get the vote,” Biden said in response to a question about individual and corporate rates at a CNN town hall Thursday in Baltimore.
The White House has been directly negotiating with Sinema to find ways to raise revenue to come up with enough money to fund the climate, health care and early childhood programs central to Biden’s economic agenda.
Sinema has agreed to raise tax revenue from companies and the wealthy, according to a person familiar with the matter. But that’s posed a challenge to craft potential alternatives to rate increases.
How to raise revenue isn’t the only obstacle. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who supports increasing tax rates for corporations and high-income individuals, has said he can’t support a clean power program favored by Biden.
Biden must also hold support from progressive Democrats as he scales back other top provisions. In his town hall, Biden said an initiative to provide paid family leave would be slashed to just four weeks from 12, while his proposal to provide two years of tuition-free community college would likely be eliminated.
Instead, Biden said he would pursue increasing aid to students through expanding the Pell Grant program. The president also said that a proposal from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to expand Medicare benefits to include dental, vision and hearing coverage was likely “a reach” and that a number of other key provisions remain unsettled.
Pelosi said committees were working on the tax portion and that there were “a couple of outstanding issues” on health care.
The White House has put forward a Medicare drug price negotiation compromise, one of the opponents of the original House proposal said Friday. California Rep. Scott Peters said it is a mix of his bill, which ties prices to inflation and allows Medicare to negotiate nonexclusive drugs under Part B, and the House bill which has full Part D negotiation. Peters also supports out-of-pocket caps for seniors and a cut to insulin prices.
“There’s still a ways to go,” he said. “It would be a tragedy if we don’t have drug price provisions in this bill”©2021 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.