WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden seemed unable to stand with two vacillating Democratic senators trying to cut his potentially historic $ 3.5 trillion, which would collapse without their support, to put his government reform plans on the line not to come to an agreement quickly.
With Republicans firmly opposed and with no Democratic votes left, Biden canceled a trip to Chicago on Wednesday that would focus on COVID-19 vaccinations so he could spend a full day of intense negotiations before the crucial votes. Advisors made their way to Capitol Hill to hold talks, and late in the day Support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met with Biden at the White House.
The risks were clear, but so were the potential rewards as Biden and his party seek a huge legislative effort – it promises a major rewrite of the country’s balance sheet with an increasingly thin majority in Congress. His idea is essentially to raise taxes on the corporate and rich and use that money to expand government health care, education, and other programs – an impact that would be felt in countless Americans.
“We’re going one step at a time,” Pelosi told reporters.
Attention is drawn to Sens. Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, centrist Democrats. They share the concern that the overall scope of Biden’s plan is too large, but have made colleagues angry by not publishing counter-proposals.
In a potentially ominous sign, Manchin sent out a fiery statement late Wednesday denouncing the widespread spending as “financial madness” and warning that it would not get its vote without adjustments. “I cannot – and will – not support trillions of dollars in spending or an all-or-nothing approach,” he said.
Together, the two senators hold the keys to undo the stalemate over Biden’s far-reaching vision, at the heart of his election pledges. Although no one said no to a deal, they still have to signal yes – but they split up on details, such a person who is familiar with the private conversations and allows anonymity to discuss them.
Some people seem to have fewer questions about the revenue side of the equation – higher taxes for business and the rich – than they do about spending plans and certain policies, especially those related to climate change that are important to their coal-centric state. He wants any expansion of aid programs for Americans to be based on income needs, not just for everyone.
Although Sinema is less open in its views, when it comes to questions, Sinema focuses on the menu of tax options, including the increased corporate tax rate, which some in the business community argue could make the US less competitive overseas, and the individual tax rate, of which others warn that he might be low entrepreneurs.
With Democratic promises at stake, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairperson Pramila Jayapal of Washington State said of Manchin, “He either has to make us an offer or the whole thing won’t happen.”
Pelosi suggested that she could postpone Thursday’s vote on a $ 1 trillion related move on public works that Manchin, Sinema and other centrists want, but unless they defeat the progressives gives movement in Biden’s broader package.
Thursday’s vote was seen as a pressure point for the senators and other centrist lawmakers to reach an agreement with Biden. But since Manchin and Sinema were buried, that seemed unlikely.
“Both bills are vital priorities,” said a White House reading of the president’s meeting with congressional leaders.
At the same time, Congress is beginning to resolve a more immediate crisis that emerged after Republicans refused to pass laws to keep the government going through fiscal year-end Thursday and raise the country’s debt limit to avoid a dangerous loan default .
The Democrats split the vote on government funding and the debt ceiling into two bills, suspending the heated debate over the debt ceiling for another day, closer to a separate deadline in October.
The Senate stands ready to vote on Thursday to provide state funding to avoid a federal shutdown and temporarily continue operations through December 3. The house is expected to follow quickly.
As Biden and his party scramble to achieve a major political achievement, there is a strong feeling that progress is being made on the big bill, said an administrative official who requested anonymity to discuss the private talks.
The president is very involved, meeting with Manchin and Sinema separately at the White House this week and speaking by phone to the lawmakers who are shaping the package. He even showed up at the annual Congress baseball game on Wednesday night, a gesture of goodwill during the rare bipartisan event among lawmakers.
In order to reach an agreement, the Democrats stand ready to cut the tax proposals and spending targets of the huge Biden measures to reach an overall size that Manchin and Sinema are calling for.
“I think it’s pretty clear that we’re in the middle of a negotiation and everyone has to give in a little,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Psaki said members of Congress were “not wallflowers” but had a range of views. “We listen, we get involved, we negotiate. But ultimately there are strong points of view and we are working to reach an agreement.”
In addition to Senators, Biden’s problems with other Democrats also include a small number of centrist Democrats in the House of Representatives who also resent the far-reaching reach of his domestic agenda, which would expand health, education, and climate protection programs, all of which are paid for by the higher tax rates.
Progressive lawmakers warn against cutting too much, saying they have compromised enough already, and are threatening to withhold support for the accompanying $ 1 trillion public works move they say too lean is without Biden’s larger package being assured.
But centrists warned against canceling Thursday’s vote as a “breach of trust that would slow the momentum in implementing the Biden Agenda,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., A leader of the centrist Blue Dog Democrats.
Republicans are against Biden’s bigger vision, mocking the $ 3.5 trillion package as a slide towards socialism and government intrusion into American lives.
Biden insists that the price will actually be zero, as expanding government programs would largely be paid for in higher taxes for businesses and the rich – businesses making more than $ 5 million a year and individuals making more than $ 400,000 Couples earn US dollars per year, or $ 450,000 per year.
The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to extend the debt ceiling to December 16, but it is doubtful that the Democratic bill will pass the Senate in the face of opposition from the GOP – this debate will be postponed until another day.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has told Congress that she has until October 18, when her department is likely to exhaust all “extraordinary measures” that are being taken to avoid government default.
Associate press writers Zeke Miller, Mary Clare Jalonick, Kevin Freking, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.