White House Holds More Meetings With Democrats on Budget
Top Democrats and the White House agreed on some proposals for financing their ambitious social safety net plan, but crucial decisions remained about its cost and what would be included.,
Democrats work to iron out budget differences as White House talks continue.
Top Democrats on Capitol Hill grasped to resolve their disagreements over a multi-trillion-dollar social safety net and climate package on Thursday, as President Biden and his team planned another day of negotiations with key lawmakers to find a legislative path to enact his domestic policy agenda.
Democratic leaders claimed progress toward a deal, announcing that they had agreed upon an array of possible ways to pay for it. But they offered no details about what programs would be included or what the total cost would eventually be, and what they called a “framework agreement” appeared to be modest.
The Senate Finance Committee chairman, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, and the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Representative Richard Neal, signed off on provisions that their respective committees already saw eye to eye on: a top income tax rate of 39.6 percent, which affluent taxpayers faced before President Donald J. Trump cut it to 37 percent in 2017; a crackdown on tax-preferred conservation easements, often used by the rich to lower taxation on historical properties; and closing a loophole, famously used by Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire, that can shield huge investment gains from taxation within an individual retirement account.
They agreed that the plan should fulfill Mr. Biden’s call to raise taxes on corporations and capital gains, but did not settle on rates for those items, according to aides familiar with the discussions who detailed them on the condition of anonymity. And they committed to trying to find common ground on their other priorities, such as Mr. Wyden’s proposal to tax the wealth gains of billionaires.
The talks came on a day when Mr. Biden and administration officials were expected to continue meetings focused on advancing both a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a broader $3.5 trillion domestic policy plan that most Democrats now concede will have to be scaled back to win passage.
Party leaders hope to coalesce around a compromise on the social safety net bill by Monday, when a vote is planned on the infrastructure measure. But agreement on a total cost, which programs to include and which to jettison, and how to pay for it will involve painful choices for a divided caucus.
Still, Democratic leaders predicted they would ultimately deliver both measures to Mr. Biden’s desk.
“I’m confident we will pass both bills,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters during her weekly news conference at the Capitol.
Mr. Biden spent much of Wednesday in meetings with Democratic leaders and nearly two dozen lawmakers, listening to the concerns of the feuding factions in his party over his two top domestic priorities.
Moderates are pressing for quick action on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, while progressives have vowed to withhold their votes for that measure until approval of the far broader social safety net measure that is to include vast new investments in climate, education, health and social programs.
Mr. Biden urged moderates who have balked at the size of that package to put forward an overall spending level that they could support, as well as the priorities they wanted to see funded, according to senators and aides.
Democrats are aiming to pass the legislation on a party-line vote using a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation that shields it from a filibuster and allows it to pass on a simple majority vote. But because of their slim margins of control on Capitol Hill, Mr. Biden needs the support of every Democrat in the Senate and can lose as few as three in the House to win enactment of the plan.
But progressive lawmakers who want to see the reconciliation bill completed first pressed Mr. Biden on Wednesday to weigh in with House Democratic leaders against holding a Monday vote on the infrastructure legislation. Concerned that their more conservative-leaning colleagues may refuse to support the larger plan once the infrastructure measure is enacted, liberal Democrats have said they will withhold their votes for that bill until the reconciliation plan clears Congress.