U.S. President Joe Biden said Monday he is “very optimistic” on completing a deal this week on his pared-down social safety net spending plan, an assessment echoed by one of the centrist Democratic lawmakers who has been holding back on his support.
Biden told reporters in Delaware that his Sunday meeting with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who has sought sharp cuts in Biden’s original $3.5 trillion package, “went well.”
They discussed final details in the package that could be trimmed to about half that amount, with Manchin insisting on a $1.5 trillion figure.
“A few more things to work out, but it went well,” Biden said.
Later, Manchin said that he believes there will be a “conceptual framework” on Biden’s package later in the week. Even with the spending cutbacks, it would amount to one of the largest expansions of the U.S. government’s social safety net for American families since the 1960s.
But it remained unclear where the other Democratic holdout, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, stands on the pared-back version. She has opposed Biden’s plan to raise taxes on corporations and individuals earning more than $400,000 a year.
Subsequently, Biden and key Democratic lawmakers are now proposing to ramp up enforcement against tax cheaters to increase government revenue and craft new tax increases that would target the estimated 700 U.S. billionaires.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CNN on Sunday that the legislation would take aim at “exceptionally wealthy individuals” and likely tax their unrealized capital gains that now are only taxed when they sell assets.
The support of both Manchin and Sinema, the most politically moderate lawmakers in the Senate Democratic caucus, is essential if any Biden social safety net legislation is to win congressional approval.
With the 100-member Senate equally split between Republicans and Democrats, all 50 Democrats would need to support the legislation, added along with the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. Currently, no Republicans support the legislation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, told CNN on Sunday that even at half its original size the package is “still bigger than anything we have ever done in terms of addressing the needs of America’s working families,” with universal pre-kindergarten schooling and tax credits for all but the wealthiest parents.
She said 90% of the measure “is agreed to.”
As details of the social safety net plan are finalized, the House leader said her plan is for the chamber to vote later this week on a bipartisan trillion-dollar infrastructure measure already approved by the Senate to fix the country’s deteriorating roads and bridges and expand broadband internet service throughout the United States.
“I’m optimistic we can do that,” she said.
The infrastructure spending plan drew the support of 19 Republicans in the Senate, along with that of all 50 Democrats, but progressive Democrats in the House blocked its passage there until agreement could be reached on the social safety net legislation that they consider a bigger legislative priority.