Biden says he is open to reducing the length of new programs

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HARTFORD, Connecticut (AP) – President Joe Biden says he would rather cut the length of programs for his big climate change and social services package rather than completely eliminate some of them, as Democrats struggle to win support moderates by reducing what had been a $ 3.5 trillion proposal.

Biden’s comments on Friday, reassuring progressives that he hopes will be a defining part of his legacy, marked his clearest indication yet of how he hopes negotiations on the bill go. Seeming to side with a strategy favored by progressive lawmakers, it marked at least a subtle break with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has suggested that most Democrats prefer to focus on establishing a few. sustainable programs.

He also said there was no deadline for a deal.

“I think it’s important to establish the principle on a whole host of issues without guaranteeing to get the entire 10 years,” Biden told reporters before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington afterwards. a trip to Connecticut. “It is important to establish it.

“So what happens is you take the principle and build on it,” he added. “You look back and either it works or it doesn’t. “

Pelosi, however, in a Monday note to fellow Democratic lawmakers said: “The vast majority of advice I get from members is to do less well.”

Biden said on Friday that while he expects the package to shrink, “we’ll come back and collect the rest” after it’s passed.

“We’re not going to get $ 3.5 trillion. We will have less than that, but we will have it. And we’ll come back and get the rest, ”Biden said during an address at a Connecticut daycare.

Capitol Hill Democrats are working to reduce the overall program to roughly $ 2 trillion in spending, which would be funded by higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. The proposal includes everything from free daycares and community colleges to dental, vision and hearing benefits for the elderly and a number of important provisions aimed at tackling climate change. These are all key things for progressives, but moderates have retreated from the original price of $ 3.5 trillion.

An almost certain reduction would be in the free community college proposal.

“I doubt we’ll get all of the community college funding, but I’m not going to give up on community colleges while I’m president,” Biden said. His wife, Jill, is an English teacher at Northern Virginia Community College.

With narrow margins in the House and Senate, Democrats have no voice to spare on the bill. The downsizing process has raised concern among some progressives.

The party’s internal debate was evident when Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Wrote an opinion column for a West Virginia newspaper calling out that state’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin by his name for blocking the national package so far.

Sanders named Manchin as one of only two Democratic senators who “remain in opposition” to the measure, thwarting the party’s unanimous support the party needs in the 50-50 Senate to approve the still-evolving legislation.

“This is a pivotal moment in modern American history. We now have a historic opportunity to support working families in West Virginia, Vermont and across the country and create a policy that works for all, not just a few, ”Sanders wrote in an article. to appear in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Sunday.

Manchin hit back Friday night in a statement, saying, “This isn’t the first time an alien has tried to tell West Virginia what is best for them.”

It is highly unusual for a senator to publicly criticize a colleague from the same party, including wading through the state of the other lawmaker.

Manchin proposed to keep the overall cost of the measure over 10 years at $ 1.5 trillion and said he wanted to limit some healthcare initiatives to benefit only low-income people.

Sanders and Manchin are respectively among the Democrats’ most progressive and conservative senators.

Biden has openly acknowledged that the price of his package will have to come down. He visited a child development center in Hartford on Friday to talk about the need to invest in child care and other welfare programs, arguing they are imperative for America to stay competitive in the global economy.

At the center, Biden promoted his proposal to make such care free for low-income families and to ensure that families representing up to 150% of their state’s median income pay less than 7% of their wages for care. of children. It’s part of a massive expansion of the social safety net that Biden has championed and aims to pass with only Democratic votes in Congress.

“Too many people in Washington still don’t realize that investing in our physical infrastructure is not enough. We also need to invest in our people, ”he said.

Biden briefly greeted some of the kids on the centre’s playground, kneeling at one point to hug a child.

The president’s sales pitch comes as his Democratic allies fear the American public does not understand the benefits of his package. There is a renewed urgency among Democrats to push him through before a month-end deadline on transportation funding, Biden’s next overseas trip, and a closer than expected race for Virginia’s next governor.

The fate of the legislation, dubbed “Build Back Better” by Biden, also delays a bipartisan infrastructure bill worth more than $ 1,000 billion that was passed by the Senate this summer. Progressives in the House are reluctant to support this roads and bridges bill until a deal is reached. on the way forward for the social safety net package.

In an interview this week with The Associated Press, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, criticized Democrats, including Biden, for the lack of progress.

“They were all able to pull themselves together and vote,” McAuliffe said. When specifically asked if he was calling Biden, McAuliffe said, “I put everyone in there.” McAuliffe is in a tight race with Republican newcomer Glenn Youngkin in a 10-point Biden state last fall.

Biden also delivered remarks later at the inauguration of the University of Connecticut’s Dodd Center for Human Rights, which is renamed in honor of a longtime friend, former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, and Dodd’s father, also a former senator.

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Jaffe reported from Washington. AP editors Lisa Mascaro and Alan Fram in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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