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Dems Rework $2T Plan          10/22 06:55

   The White House and Democrats are hurriedly reworking key aspects of 
President Joe Biden's $2 trillion domestic policy plan, trimming the social 
services and climate change programs and rethinking new taxes on corporations 
and the wealthy to pay for a scaled-back package.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House and Democrats are hurriedly reworking key 
aspects of President Joe Biden's $2 trillion domestic policy plan, trimming the 
social services and climate change programs and rethinking new taxes on 
corporations and the wealthy to pay for a scaled-back package.

   The changes come as Biden more forcefully appeals to the American public, 
including in a televised town hall Thursday, for what he says are the 
middle-class values at the heart of his proposal.

   Biden mentioned during the evening event the challenge he faces in wrangling 
the sharply divergent factions in the Democratic party to agree to the final 
contours of the bill. With an evenly divided Senate, he can't afford to lose a 
single vote, and he is navigating the competing demands of progressives, who 
want major investments in social services, and centrists, who want to see the 
price tag on the package come down.

   "When you're president of the United States, you have 50 Democrats -- every 
one is a president. Every single one. So you gotta work things out," he said 
during a CNN town hall.

   Still, he expressed optimism about the process, saying "I think so" when 
asked if Democrats were close to a deal.

   "It's all about compromise. Compromise has become a dirty word, but 
bipartisanship and compromise still has to be possible," he said.

   Biden later said the discussions are "down to four or five issues."

   On one issue -- the taxes to pay for the package -- the White House idea 
seemed to be making headway with a new strategy of abandoning plans for 
reversing Trump-era tax cuts in favor of an approach that would involve taxing 
the investment incomes of billionaires to help finance the deal.

   Biden has faced resistance from key holdouts, in particular Sen. Kyrsten 
Sinema, D-Ariz., who has not been on board with her party's plan to undo 
President Donald Trump's tax breaks for big corporations or individuals earning 
more than $400,000 a year.

   The president was unusually forthcoming Thursday night about the sticking 
points in the negotiations with Sinema and another key Democrat, conservative 
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

   While the president said Sinema "will not raise a single penny in taxes" on 
the wealthy or corporations, a White House official later clarified that the 
president was referring to raising the top tax rates, not the range of tax 
proposals "which Senator Sinema supports."

   Biden said Manchin doesn't want to "rush" the transition to clean energy so 
quickly it will result in major job losses in his coal-producing state.

   Even as he seemed encouraged by progress, Biden acknowledged major 
reductions to his original vision. He signaled 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.

   "It's not going to get us the whole thing, but it is a start," he said.

   He also said that what had been envisioned as a federally paid, months-long 
family leave program would be just four weeks.

   Talks between the White House and Democratic lawmakers are focused on 
reducing what had been a $3.5 trillion package to about $2 trillion, in what 
would be an unprecedented federal effort to expand social services for millions 
and address the rising threat of climate change.

   "We have a goal. We have a timetable. We have milestones, and we've met them 
all," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who predicted Thursday, "It 
will pass soon."

   Biden signaled flexibility on the tax provisions of the bill, as long as 
it's paid for and it doesn't increase taxes on those earning $400,000 or less.

   "I'm willing to make sure that we pay for everything," he said when pressed 
on what tax proposal he'd support.

   The newly proposed tax provisions, though, are likely to sour progressives 
and even some moderate Democrats who have long campaigned on scrapping the 
Republican-backed 2017 tax cuts that many believe unduly reward the wealthy and 
cost the government untold sums in lost revenue at a time of gaping income 
inequality. Many are furious that perhaps a lone senator could stymie that goal.

   The chairman of the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal, 
D-Mass., said he spoke for more than 30 minutes with the centrist Arizona 
senator, whose closely held views are a mystery to her colleagues.

   "I said, Kyrsten, you and I both know this has got to pass. She said: 'I 
couldn't agree more,'" Neal told reporters at the Capitol.

   Sinema's office did not respond to a request for comment.

   Under existing law passed in 2017, the corporate tax rate is 21%. Democrats 
had proposed raising it to 26.5% for companies earning more than $5 million a 
year. The top individual income tax rate would go from 37% to 39.6% for those 
earning more than $400,000, or $450,000 for married couples.

   Under the changes being floated the corporate rate would not change. But the 
revisions would not be all positive for big companies and the wealthy.

   The White House is reviving the idea of a minimum corporate tax rate, 
similar to the 15% rate Biden had proposed this year. That's even for companies 
that say they had no taxable income --- a frequent target of Biden, who 
complains they pay "zero" in taxes.

   The new tax on the wealthiest individuals would be modeled on legislation 
from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He has 
proposed taxing stock gains of people with more than $1 billion in assets -- 
fewer than 1,000 Americans.

   Other tax options are also being considered, and Democrats are almost 
certain to include a provision to beef up the Internal Revenue Service to go 
after tax dodgers.

   Biden and his party are trying to shore up middle-class households, tackle 
climate change and stem the trend toward rising income inequality.

   In the mix are at least $500 billion to battle climate change, $350 billion 
for child care subsidies and free prekindergarten, a one-year extension of the 
$300 monthly child tax credit put in place during the COVID-19 crisis, and 
money for health care provided through the Affordable Care Act and Medicare.

   Democrats also want to add funding to provide dental, vision and hearing aid 
benefits to people on Medicare proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

 
 
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