October 20, 2021
 
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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 
Congress.

   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," 
Khanna said.

   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 
state.

   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 
ally.

   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 
wayside.

   "It's not the robust vision the president wants or that we wanted," Khanna 
said.

   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 
the president.

   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 
Biden.

   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.

 
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