Democrats cut budget, push for compromises by the end of the weekend

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats said Tuesday that they hoped to reach a compromise on President Biden’s far-reaching domestic policy plan by the end of the week and sought to show progress after weeks of public squabbles and private negotiations with centrist objectors.

The renewed urgency came when Mr Biden privately admitted that key elements of his social safety net and climate proposal would likely be dropped or significantly reduced to fit within a measure that would be much smaller than the original US $ 3.5 trillion plan -Dollars the Democrats drafted beyond the summer.

In a meeting at the White House Tuesday, the president reiterated that the total price would be about $ 2 trillion and suggested it could be as low as $ 1.75 trillion, said two people familiar with the discussion was. They also warned that the details were still in flux. In the past few days, Mr Biden had previously proposed spending $ 1.9-2.2 trillion over a 10-year period.

He told Democrats that a plan to offer two years of free community college would most likely have to be thrown overboard, according to lawmakers who attended. The concession came days after negotiators began shutting down a clean electricity program designed to help quickly replace coal and gas-fired power plants, promoted by Senator Joe Manchin III.

Mr Biden also raised the possibility of cutting an increase in monthly payments to families with children, and possibly extending the program for a year of permanent reimbursement, compared to the longer period many Democrats were aiming for, according to two familiar with the discussions Persons.

The overall draft was also expected to address climate change, expand health services, provide some government coverage for pre-kindergarten and home care, and be fully funded with some tax increases. (Mr Biden was largely focused on the proposed spending, according to attendees.)

Democrats are increasingly concerned about the fate of their domestic plan, which is deeply divided among their ranks and has little insight into private conversations with two key centrist senators who have pushed its cost and scope back: Mr. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

But New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, came out of a private luncheon to announce that there was “general agreement in this room, that we must come to an agreement, and we must get it and want to” about it to be done this week. “

“Everyone will be disappointed in certain things, but everyone will be happy about certain things,” he added.

Speaking privately to lawmakers Tuesday, Mr Biden said he wanted an agreement before traveling to Glasgow for a climate change conference later this month. He met separately with a group of moderate lawmakers and a group of liberals to discuss new details of the plan.

While puzzling over ways to shrink the bill, some Democrats have pushed for fewer programs to be included. Legislators said, however, that many of the proposals contained in Mr. Biden’s original plan are likely to remain in some form with shortened duration and limited eligibility.

“It’s not the number we want – we’ve consistently tried to get it as high as possible,” said Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington and chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We’re focused on the idea that we can run these programs, a variety of programs, and actually get them working so they can bring instant transformative benefits to people.”

To bypass the unanimous Republican opposition, the Democrats are using an expedited budget process known as reconciliation to protect him from a filibuster. But they still have to win the votes of all 50 of their senators and almost all of the Democrats in the house.

With deadlines looming to maintain government funding beyond December 3 and avoid an initial federal debt default, Democrats are keen to finalize work on their political ambitions.

Much of the effort to bridge the divisions within the party has centered on Mr Manchin and Mrs Sinema, who both met with Mr Biden on Tuesday. Ms. Sinema missed lunch with Democratic Senators because she was discussing the plan with senior White House officials.

Mr Manchin also snuggled privately with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, chairman of the budget committee and an advocate of the original $ 3.5 trillion plan, according to an adviser.

Mr Biden, who the Democrats pushed for a more active role in the talks, spent much of Tuesday discussing the package with lawmakers from the party’s liberal and moderate wings.

“After a day of constructive meetings tonight, the president is more confident about the way forward to delivering the American people strong, sustainable economic growth that benefits all,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

They have little time to settle their differences. Some Democrats want to vote on a bipartisan $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill by October 31st if a number of transportation programs expire if Congress fails to act. But the progressives in the House of Representatives are holding back their votes for this measure until the Senate has passed the Reconciliation Act. Some Democrats hope that if they can compromise on the reconciliation measure, it will be enough to get the Liberals in the House of Representatives to pass the infrastructure bill.

“A frame means different things to different people,” said Senator Tina Smith, Democrat of Minnesota. “To me it means that there is a detailed description of what we’re going to do, that I won’t be surprised when I see the legal language, and I think that it is definitely possible.”

One of the biggest hurdles for the Democrats is the scope of climate regulations after Mr Manchin negotiated the clean electricity program and a carbon tax. (Senator Jon Tester of Montana, another major centrist, also said he had concerns about the tax.)

Democrats are in talks to reuse $ 150 billion earmarked for trying to spur electricity utilities to cut emissions faster – which Mr Manchin opposes – to fund other climate change efforts instead. This includes additional tax credits for solar and nuclear energy and the recording of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-operated power plants. They also include grants and loans to incentivize emission reductions in steel, concrete, and other industrial applications.

“We are relying on tax incentives – we will basically encourage people to advance the technology that we have,” said Manchin on Tuesday. “We will take the best technology we have and use it for the good of the world.”

But for Liberal Democrats, that may not be enough for legislation they see as their best chance to counter the growing toll of climate change.

“There are very clear concerns and we will work very, very hard to get the strongest bill possible,” said Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Majority Leader. “The bottom line: we need 51 votes in the Senate.”

Catie Edmondson, Jim Tankersley and Chris Cameron Reporting contributed.

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