By LISA MASCARO, DARLENE SUPERVILLE and ALAN FRAM
WASHINGTON (AP) – An agreement within reach, President Joe Biden and Congress’ top Democrats were close to sealing their gigantic national legislation, though the informal deadline seemed to be falling as they worked to cut the measure and decide how to had to pay for it.
Negotiations were expected to continue into the weekend, with all sides stating that there were only a few issues unresolved in the comprehensive package of social services and climate change strategies.
Biden met in the White House on Friday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined in a video call from New York and tried to get detailed. Leaders have worked with party moderates and progressives to shrink the once $ 3.5 trillion, 10-year package to about $ 2 trillion in child care, health care and clean energy programs.
Pelosi said a deal was “very possible.”
She told reporters back in the Capitol that more than 90% of the package agreed: The climate change components of the bill “are solved”, but there are still unresolved issues of health regulations.
Vice President Kamala Harris sounded even more confident. During a visit to New York City, she said tensions often rise over the final details, but “I’m honest and to the point – not only optimistic, but I’m confident we will reach an agreement.”
No deal was announced by Friday’s self-imposed deadline to at least agree on a basic outline. Biden wants an agreement before leaving global summits in Europe next week.
Pelosi hoped Parliament could start voting as soon as next week, but no timetable was set.
Sticking points seem to include proposed corporate tax increases to help fund the plan and an attempt to lower prescription drug costs that have raised concerns from the pharmaceutical industry. Democrats seek a broad compromise between the party’s progressives and moderates on the price of the measure, sources of revenue and basic components.
In the White House, the president has “rolled up his sleeves and is deep into the details of spreadsheets and numbers,” said Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
Biden was to spend the weekend at his home in Wilmington, Delaware.
Psaki compared the work of starting social security and other major federal programs decades ago and then built on them in the following years.
“Progress here is a historic package that will introduce systems and programs that have never existed in our society before,” she said, noting the efforts to expand childcare and offer free kindergarten to all young people.
Negotiations are underway as Biden appeals more forcefully to the American public, including in a TV town hall, for what he says are middle-class values at the heart of his proposal.
In a Senate evenly distributed among Democrats and strongly against Republicans, Biden cannot afford to lose a single vote. He navigates in his own party’s factions – progressives who want large investments in social services, and centrists who prefer to see the overall price tag fall.
“When you are president of the United States, you have 50 Democrats – everyone is a president. Every single one. So you have to find out, ”he said during a CNN City Hall meeting on Thursday.
Still, he expressed optimism about the process. “It’s about compromise. Compromise has become a dirty word, but bipartisanship and compromise must still be possible, ”he said.
On a question-the-taxes to pay for the package-the White House idea seemed to be on track with a new strategy of abandoning plans to reverse tax cuts in the Trump era in favor of an approach that would involve imposing a corporate minimum tax at 15% and also taxes billionaires’ investment income to help finance the deal.
Biden has faced opposition from key holdouts, especially Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Who has not been on board with his party’s plan to undo President Donald Trump’s tax cuts for large corporations and individuals earning more than $ 400,000 a year. .
The president was unusually forthcoming Thursday night on the points of negotiations with Sinema and another Democrat, Conservative Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
While the president said Sinema was opposed to raising “a single penny in taxes” to the wealthy or corporations, a White House official later clarified that the president referred to raising the top tax rates, not row tax proposals, “as late. Cinema supports. ”
In that case, it can unlock an important part of a deal. With a better understanding of the revenue available, Democrats can then develop an overall spending package and adjust the duration and amounts of different programs accordingly.
Biden said Manchin does not want to “hasten” the transition to clean energy so quickly that it will result in huge job losses in his coal-producing state.
Even so, Biden acknowledged great reductions in his original vision.
He signaled that the final plan would no longer provide free community college, but said he hoped to increase Pell Grants to compensate for the loss of the policy.
He also said that what had been envisioned as a federally paid, month-long family leave program would be only four weeks.
Another ongoing work – the idea of expanding Medicare to include benefits for dentists, vision and hearing aids for seniors is a priority for Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont.
Biden said he likes the idea, but with Manchin and Sinema opposed, the proposal is “a reach.”
Instead, Democrats are considering him offering seniors a $ 800 voucher to access dental care, as well as another hearing aid program that Sinema can support. However, the vision care component, Biden said, has been harder to solve and there is no consensus yet.
Overall, Biden and his party are trying to set up middle-class households, tackle climate change, and get the most affluent Americans and businesses to pay what he calls their “fair share” of the nation.
The mix includes at least $ 500 billion in clean energy tax deductions and other efforts to combat climate change, $ 350 billion in childcare subsidies and free daycare, an extension of the $ 300 monthly tax deduction introduced during the COVID-19 crisis, and money for health care provided through the Affordable Care Act.
However, the recently proposed tax provisions have ranked Democrats long struggling to scrap the Republican-backed tax cuts that many believe unduly reward the wealthy and cost the government countless sums in lost revenue at a time when income inequality is unequal. Many are furious that a lone senator might be able to stop that goal.
During the floating changes, the company price of 21% would not change, and the individual top rate of 39.6% on those earning $ 400,000 or $ 450,000 for couples would not change either.
However, the White House is reviving the idea of a corporate minimum tax rate that would hit even companies that say they had no taxable income – a frequent target for Biden, who complains that they pay “zero” in taxes.
The new tax on the richest people would be modeled after legislation by Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He has proposed taxing stock gains for people with more than $ 1 billion in assets – fewer than 1,000 Americans.
Associated Press authors Alex Jaffe, Kevin Freking, and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.