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Paid family leave falls from Bill Biden as spirits rise

WASHINGTON (AP) – Top Democrats have signaled that a deal is close at hand on President Joe Biden’s big domestic bill, but momentum has run out of steam and spirits flared on Wednesday night as a proposal for paid family leave fell and a billionaire tax appeared to be removed, mainly to satisfy a core member of the Senate 50-50.

With his national signing initiative on the line, Biden will travel to Capitol Hill Thursday morning to urge Democratic lawmakers to initiate discussions on the social services and climate change bill “beyond the finish line” before his departure for world summits abroad.

President Joe Biden attends a CNN town hall at the Baltimore Center Stage Pearlstone Theater on Thursday, October 21, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo / Evan Vucci)

Also in the mix: Expanded health care programs, free preschool and some $ 500 billion to fight climate change remain in what is now at least $ 1.75 trillion.

And Democrats are considering a new surtax on the rich – 5% on income over $ 10 million and an additional 3% on those over $ 25 million – to help pay, according to a person who requested anonymity to discuss private interviews.

“They are all within our reach. Let’s get these bills over the finish line. Biden tweeted Wednesday night.
To help push lawmakers toward that goal, Biden will address the House Democratic Caucus Thursday morning, a person familiar with the plan told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. In addition to lobbying on important party priorities, the president hoped to show foreign leaders that the United States was getting things done under his administration.

Paid family leave falls from Bill Biden as spirits rise
Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Speaks to reporters following a Democratic strategy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, October 26, 2021. (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)

The administration was assessing the situation “hour by hour,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
It was a quick day on Capitol Hill that started off optimistically when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats were “in pretty good shape.” But hopes quickly faded as Biden’s grand proposal met with further stubborn setbacks, the main one being how to pay for everything.

A newly proposed tax on billionaires could be removed after opposition from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, according to a senior party official, who requested anonymity to discuss the private talks.
The billionaires’ tax proposal was designed to win over another Democratic resistance fighter, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, but Manchin criticized it for unfairly targeting the wealthy, leaving Democrats at odds.
“The people in the stratosphere, rather than trying to penalize, we should rejoice that this country is able to produce wealth,” Manchin told reporters.

Paid family leave falls from Bill Biden as spirits rise
Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., center, and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Far left, board an elevator as they leave a meeting, Wednesday, October 27, 2021 , at Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin)

Manchin has said he prefers a flat-rate “patriotic tax” of at least 15% to ensure that the richest Americans do not refrain from paying taxes. Nonetheless, he said: “We have to move forward.”

The following fall was a draft paid family leave program that was already being cut from 12 to four weeks to satisfy Manchin. But with his objections, he was unlikely to be included in the bill, the person said.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y., had devised several new options for the Manchin exam and told reporters late in the evening: “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Together, Manchin’s and Sinema’s objections resulted in a double punch, upsetting Biden’s overall plan, halving what had been a $ 3.5 trillion package and infuriating his colleagues along the way.
In the equally divided Senate, Biden needs the support of all the voiceless Democrats to spare.
White House officials met on Capitol Hill with Manchin and Sinema, two senators who now wield tremendous power, essentially deciding whether or not Biden will be able to deliver on key Democrats’ campaign promises.

Paid family leave falls from Bill Biden as spirits rise
Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, exits the Senate Chamber to return to a private meeting with Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., the other key vote on President Joe Biden’s national agenda, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday October 27, 2021 (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)

“I’m making progress,” Sinema said, rushing into an elevator.

A Sunday deadline loomed for approval of a bipartisan bill on road and bridge infrastructure or risk allowing funds for routine transportation programs to expire. But this $ 1,000 billion bill has been blocked by progressive lawmakers who refuse to give their support without the biggest Biden deal.

Despite a series of delays, Democrats were unable to strike the deal between themselves and Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the package. At best, Democrats could potentially come up with a cadre Thursday who could send Biden overseas with a deal in hand and unlock the process while the final details were worked out.

Lobbying, Pelosi announced a committee hearing Thursday to boost the Biden package toward a House vote, though the timing remained uncertain.

Democrats were hoping that the billionaires’ tax unveiling on Wednesday might help solve the revenue side of the equation after Sinema rejected the party’s earlier idea of ​​undoing Trump-era tax breaks on businesses and the rich, those who earn more than $ 400,000.

The new billionaires’ proposal would tax the earnings of those with more than $ 1 billion in assets or incomes of more than $ 100 million over three consecutive years – less than 800 people – forcing them to pay taxes on them. gains from stocks and other marketable assets, rather than waiting for the holdings to be sold.

Paid family leave falls from Bill Biden as spirits rise
Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., a key vote on President Joe Biden’s national agenda, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, October 27, 2021. (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)

The billionaire tax rate would align with the capital gains rate, now 23.8%. Democrats have said it could generate $ 200 billion in revenue that could help fund Biden’s 10-year program.

Republicans ridiculed the billionaire tax as “insane” and some suggested it would face a legal challenge.

But Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, insisted the billionaire tax remains on the table.

“I haven’t heard a single US senator – not one – stand up and say, ‘I think it’s just funny that billionaires pay little or nothing for years,'” Wyden said.

More likely in the mix was the accompanying proposal, a new 15% minimum corporate tax, as well as the proposed new surtax on income above $ 10 million.

Paid family leave falls from Bill Biden as spirits rise
Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Speaks to reporters as he leaves the Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, October 27, 2021. (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)

Together, they’re designed to meet Biden’s desire that the rich and big business pay their “fair share.” They also match his promise that no new taxes hit those who earn less than $ 400,000 a year, or $ 450,000 for couples. Biden wants his package paid for in full without going into debt.

Solving the income side has been crucial, as lawmakers determine how much money will be available to spend on new health, childcare and climate change programs in Biden’s grand plan.

Among Democrats, Representative Richard Neal of Massachusetts, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said he told Wyden that the billionaire tax could be difficult to implement. Despite Sinema’s opposition, he expects Democrats to stick to the approach taken by his panel of simply raising rates for businesses and the wealthy, reversing the 2017 tax cuts.

“There is a lot of angst in there about the billionaire tax,” Neal said.

Paid family leave falls from Bill Biden as spirits rise
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California arrives for a meeting with House Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)

Under the House bill approved by Neal’s panel, the top tax rate would drop from 37% to 39.6% for those earning more than $ 400,000 per year, or $ 450,000 for couples. The corporate rate would drop from 21% to 26.5%.

The House bill also proposes a 3% surtax on the richest Americans with adjusted income above $ 5 million a year, and Neal has suggested that this could be increased to $ 10 million to defeat the recalcitrant.

Opposition from the two senators is forcing difficult cuts, if not outright elimination, of political priorities – from child care assistance to dental, vision and hearing benefits for the elderly.

Once cumbersome climate change strategies are less punitive for polluters, as the Manchin coal state objected, focusing instead on rewarding clean energy incentives.

Paid family leave falls from Bill Biden as spirits rise
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY calls a reporter as he speaks after a Democratic political lunch Tuesday, October 19, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin)

Senator Bernie Sanders, of the Vermont Independent, said: “You have 48 out of 50 people supporting a program that works for the American people.”

Associated Press editors Farnoush Amiri and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.


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