Pelosi huddles with Biden as Dem dealmaking intensifies

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President Joe Biden had breakfast with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday as Democrats close in on a deal on Biden’s social spending plan, though a final agreement with the party’s two Senate centrist holdouts is unlikely to come this week.

Pelosi huddles with Biden as Dem dealmaking intensifies
© Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images President Joe Biden had breakfast with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday.

Several sources with knowledge of the intensifying talks said they doubted a deal could come together on Friday given where things stand between Biden and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). But Democrats are ending the week with far more clarity from that duo than they began, giving the party increasing confidence it can land a framework for the bill this month.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed upbeat as she returned from the White House, telling reporters she believed a deal was within reach, though repeatedly declining to say whether it could happen today. She also declined to say whether the House could vote on either the social spending bill or the Senate-passed infrastructure bill next week, remarking only that “I’m very optimistic.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer dialed into the Pelosi-Biden breakfast from New York, according to a source familiar with the meeting. Though Manchin said the party still has work to do as he left the Capitol on Thursday — and has indicated to associates he is in no rush to finish a deal — Biden expressed confidence Thursday night that the party could break its lengthy logjam.

“It’s all about compromise,” Biden said at a CNN town hall. “I do think we’ll get a deal.”

Negotiations are mainly between the White House, Manchin and Sinema at this point, according to Democratic sources, and it’s not clear they are within striking distance of a final deal yet. Pelosi’s leadership team is also expected to meet later Friday before the House breaks for the weekend.

Democrats are aiming to sell Manchin and Sinema on a roughly $2 trillion bill that tackles climate action, expanding paid family leave, education and childcare, paid for as much as possible by increasing taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans. They are unlikely to raise income or corporate tax rates due to opposition from Sinema, but Democrats are proposing workarounds to establish a corporate minimum tax and levy billionaires’ assets.

Manchin has proposed a bill of $1.5 trillion but indicated some flexibility, and Democratic leaders in both chambers have welcomed Biden’s direct engagement in that negotiation.

“I’ve been hoping there was gonna be a deal for the last three months,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Friday, adding that Biden is “working it pretty hard, so I’m hopeful that we’ll get something done. Obviously our objective was to get something done by [Friday].”

During the town hall, Biden discussed some of the party’s disagreements with Sinema and Manchin, including Sinema’s opposition to raising the corporate tax rate. The president said Sinema “will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side and/or on wealthy people, period,” though some of the proposals she’s working on would target corporations and the rich without rate hikes.

Shortly after a Thursday meeting with White House staff, a source close to Sinema said the Arizona Democrat had agreed to proposals in Biden’s four revenue categories: international, domestic corporate, high-net-worth individuals and tax enforcement. It’s not clear, however, whether other Democrats have all signed off on those Sinema-approved provisions.

Biden also offered additional policy specifics Thursday night, opening a window into where the negotiations stand on the party’s top priorities in the social spending plan. For example, Biden said that the party’s proposal for paid family leave would last four weeks, instead of the 12 weeks that proponents of the package originally sought. In addition, Biden revealed that both Sinema and Manchin oppose expanding Medicare to include dental, vision and hearing.

Manchin “doesn’t want to further burden Medicare so that — because it will run out of its ability to maintain itself in the next number of years,” Biden said. “There’s ways to fix that, but he’s not interested in that part, either.”

The movement comes as Democrats are feeling growing pressure to deliver, particularly ahead of the Virginia gubernatorial election early next month. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said Thursday that there is a “ willingness to say to leadership: ‘Make the hard decisions, cut the deal, get this done,’ on the part of nearly all of my colleagues.”

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