Democrats abandon free community college as White House warns social safety net bill will shrink below $2T

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WASHINGTON — President Biden told progressive lawmakers on Tuesday that the final social spending bill is expected to drop tuition-free community college and curtail the child tax credit program, two sources familiar with the meeting told NBC News on Tuesday.

© Provided by NBC News

The sources told NBC News that the popular child tax credit will likely be extended for an additional year. The proposals had been pushed by many Democrats as ways to reduce poverty and remove financial barriers to higher education and vocational training.

The new details on the negotiations come as Biden and Democratic leaders feverishly work to reach a deal. But the talks remain fluid as the party works to narrow down the bill to a version that can become law.

The news also comes as another big priority — a sweeping climate measure known as the Clean Energy Performance Program is also likely to be curtailed from the spending bill. However, congressional sources told NBC News on Tuesday that while the climate proposals will be scaled back there will be a focus on clean renewable energy. Two sources familiar with the negotiations also told NBC News that lawmakers are considering reducing the duration of paid leave in the bill, potentially from 12 weeks to 4 weeks.

Earlier Tuesday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the House progressive caucus, said her members had a “really good, productive meeting” with Biden, who is working with moderates and progressives on the bill.

“I think we all still feel even more optimistic about getting to an agreement on a really transformational bill that will fundamentally lift people up,” she told reporters.

The social spending package, which Democrats are attempting to pass without Republican support through a procedural process known as reconciliation, started at $3.5 trillion. Last month, Biden told House Democrats the range was likely $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion. But he told progressives Tuesday night the range he is now working on is $1.75 trillion to $1.9 trillion, three sources familiar with the meeting told NBC News.

Sources cautioned, however, that there is no final deal on these proposals.

Biden had separate White House meetings Tuesday with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, both of whom are at the center of the disagreement over the bill’s price tag and proposals. The administration has been pressing Congress to reach a deal on the social spending package and the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill by the end of the month.

Manchin, who has said he is proceeding with caution on any additional spending, told reporters Monday that he was skeptical that Congress could meet the self-imposed Oct. 31 deadline to pass both bills.

But the White House struck a more optimistic tone.

“After a day of constructive meetings, the president is more confident this evening about the path forward to delivering for the American people on strong, sustained economic growth that benefits everyone,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Tuesday night.

“There was broad agreement that there is urgency in moving forward over the next several days and that the window for finalizing a package is closing,” she said.

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