President Biden on Monday said he hopes to have a deal on his massive social spending plan before Thursday when he leaves for a trip to Europe — as Democrats eye a new “wealth tax” on billionaires to salvage the package.
Biden gave the upbeat prognosis en route to New Jersey after a Sunday breakfast at his home in Wilmington, Del., with crucial swing vote Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Biden told reporters under the wing of Air Force One that his meeting with Manchin “went well” and that he hoped to reach an agreement before he departs for Rome, where he will participate in G20 meetings and visit Pope Francis.
Biden will stop at an elementary school in North Plainfield, NJ, and an NJ Transit facility in Kearny on Monday to push for the bill. It’s unclear what strategic considerations are behind the trip — though one North Jersey congressman, Josh Gottheimer, could be a crucial Democratic vote for Biden to retain in the House.
Manchin and fellow centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have been the primary roadblocks to Biden’s plans to create vast new social safety net programs financed with higher taxes. The original pitch was for $3.5 trillion, but the final package is expected to be far smaller if a deal happens.
Manchin says he opposes the US becoming an “entitlement society” and some proposed programs. Sinema opposes proposed tax increases on businesses and people with higher incomes.
A person who insisted on anonymity to discuss Manchin’s position told the Associated Press the senator is agreeable to the White House’s new approach on the tax proposals. A second AP source said the topline is now around $1.75 trillion.
The new proposed wealth tax would give a new revenue stream for the legislation after Biden admitted last week that those hikes were probably dead because of Sinema’s stance. The new plan reportedly would tax the unrealized capital gains of billionaires.
Democrats also are debating a global minimum tax on corporations and tighter tax enforcement to pay for the bill, which Biden says would not add to the national debt or worsen rising inflation.
Democrats can ram the package through the evenly divided Senate using special budget reconciliation rules. But Democrats in the House also have a slim majority and Biden must stave off a threatened mutiny by the leftist “Squad,” which says it will tank a $1.2 trillion Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill if the larger agenda isn’t passed.
A group of New York-area House Democrats led by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and including Gottheimer also are threatening to torpedo the larger bill if it changes the tax code without abolishing the $10,000 cap on state and local income taxes that can be deducted from federal taxes. The cap, established in 2017, hammered middle- and upper-income residents of higher-tax jurisdictions like New York and New Jersey.
As proposed, Biden’s social plan would finance free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and free community college. It would subsidize childcare and family and sick leave and home and community health care for seniors and people with disabilities. It also called for vast federal renewable energy projects, climate change research and enactment of new pollution fees. It would extend the temporarily boosted child tax credit for parents from $2,000 per year to $3,000, or $3,600 for children under age 6.