The Journal Gazette
 
 
Wednesday, September 15, 2021 11:50 am

Maverick Dem senators meeting with Biden on spending plan

ALAN FRAM and MARCY GORDON | Associated Press

 

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden planned meetings Wednesday with a pair of moderate Democratic senators whose objections to the size of a proposed, huge package of social and environment initiatives have thrown serious obstacles in its path.

Biden was scheduled to meet Wednesday morning with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and later with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. The legislation represents the heart of the president’s domestic agenda, and the stakes are high for Biden and his party for finding a pathway to push the measure through the closely divided Congress.

Sinema and Manchin have said the $3.5 trillion, 10-year plan – a size backed by Biden and the party's congressional leaders – is too large. Democrats will need every one of their votes in the 50-50 Senate to move a final package through that chamber, along with Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote, and can lose no more than three Democrats in the House.

The meetings were described by White House officials and another Democrat who would only discuss the private sessions on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.

Manchin has been especially outspoken. He wrote an opinion essay in The Washington Post this month calling for Congress to “pause" its work on the legislation. He said on last Sunday's television news shows that he could not support $3.5 trillion, and instead suggested a topline figure in the $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion range.

Progressives have said cutting the package to that range would be unacceptable. Many of them initially demanded a $6 trillion plan.

Manchin told senators at a closed-door lunch Tuesday that he saw nothing “urgent” in the emerging package, according to two Democrats familiar with the private meeting and granted anonymity to discuss it.

The senator reiterated his position that the only urgent spending was in the $1 trillion public works package that the Senate approved last month and is awaiting House passage.

The White House meetings come as the last of 13 House committees were pushing toward completing their work Wednesday on their individual sections of the overall bill.

Among those meeting was the Ways and Means Committee. Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., has proposed a revenue package that includes $2.1 trillion in higher taxes, mostly on the rich and corporations.

It also claims other savings from stronger IRS tax enforcement and lowering prices Medicare pays for pharmaceuticals; it also asserts that the legislation itself would spark economic growth.

The Democrats are proposing that the top tax rate rise back to 39.6% on individuals earning more than $400,000 – or $450,000 for couples –  in addition to a 3% surtax on wealthier Americans with adjusted gross income beyond $5 million a year. For big business, the proposal would lift the corporate tax rate from 21% to 26.5% on companies’ annual income over $5 million.

In the Ways and Means panel's session, Republicans pushed to keep the corporate tax rate at 21%, where it was set by former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law. That effort, facing failure in the Democratic majority committee, sparked heated partisan debate over the role of business in the economy and the use of tax loopholes by big corporations to avoid liability.

Republican lawmakers accused the Democrats of falsely portraying themselves as defenders of middle-income and working Americans. “We’re going to be destroying jobs in America,” said Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga.

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Associated Press reporters Zeke Miller, Jonathan Lemire, Lisa Mascaro and Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.

 

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