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Politics: Deal on $2T Biden package, seems close but elusive

Everything on Biden's schedule points to one reality: It's time to close the deal

  Everything on Biden's schedule points to one reality: It's time to close the deal President Joe Biden's schedule is making it clear: The White House is ready to seal a deal on his legislative agenda. © NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images US President Joe Biden gives an update on the Covid-19 response and vaccination program, in the South Court Auditorium of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 14, 2021. There are unannounced meetings with the lawmakers that hold the keys to an agreement. There are scheduled meetings with 17 lawmakers representing the two "wings" in the party's talks. There's travel to sell the plan to the public. There's even a CNN town hall.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A deal within reach, President Joe Biden and Congress’ top Democrats edged close to sealing their giant domestic legislation, though the informal deadline appeared to slip as they worked to scale back the measure and determine how to pay for it.

In this Oct. 1, 2021 photo, President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., walk in a basement hallway of the Capitol after meeting with House Democrats, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Divided Democrats struggling to enact President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda are confronting one of Congress’ cruelest conundrums — your goals may be popular, but that doesn't ensure they'll become law or that voters will reward you.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) © Provided by Associated Press In this Oct. 1, 2021 photo, President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., walk in a basement hallway of the Capitol after meeting with House Democrats, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Divided Democrats struggling to enact President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda are confronting one of Congress’ cruelest conundrums — your goals may be popular, but that doesn't ensure they'll become law or that voters will reward you. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Negotiations were expected to continue into the weekend, all sides indicating just a few issues remained unsettled in the sweeping package of social services and climate change strategies.

Big changes in White House ideas to pay for $2 trillion plan

  Big changes in White House ideas to pay for $2 trillion plan SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — In an abrupt change, the White House is floating new plans to pay for parts of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion social services and climate change package, shelving a proposed big increase in corporate tax rates though also adding a new billionaires' tax on the investment gains of the very richest Americans. The reversal Wednesday came as Biden returned to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to highlight the middle class values he says are at the heart of the package that Democrats are racing to finish. Biden faces resistance from key holdouts, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

Biden met at the White House Friday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined by video call from from New York, trying to shore up details. The leaders have been working with party moderates and progressives to shrink the once-$3.5 trillion, 10-year package to around $2 trillion in child care, health care and clean energy programs.

President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall at the Baltimore Center Stage Pearlstone Theater, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) © Provided by Associated Press President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall at the Baltimore Center Stage Pearlstone Theater, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Pelosi said a deal was “very possible.”

She told reporters back at the Capitol that more than 90% of the package was agreed to: The climate change components of the bill “are resolved,” but outstanding questions remained on health care provisions.

With Virginia governor's race looming, Biden takes to CNN town hall to pitch his agenda to voters

  With Virginia governor's race looming, Biden takes to CNN town hall to pitch his agenda to voters The public forum comes at a pivotal moment for President Biden's social spending package, as Democrats fret over the key Virginia gubernatorial race.Biden will participate in a 90-minute town hall broadcast on CNN to field questions on a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill focused on rebuilding roads and bridges and Democrats' larger economic package to expand the social safety net and tackle the climate crisis.

President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall at the Baltimore Center Stage Pearlstone Theater, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in Baltimore, with moderator Anderson Cooper. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) © Provided by Associated Press President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall at the Baltimore Center Stage Pearlstone Theater, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in Baltimore, with moderator Anderson Cooper. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Vice President Kamala Harris sounded even more certain. On a visit to New York City, she said tensions often rise over final details but “I am confident, frankly -- not only optimistic, but I am confident that we will reach a deal.”

No agreement was announced by Friday's self-imposed deadline to at least agree on a basic outline. Biden wants a deal before he leaves next week for global summits in Europe.

Pelosi hoped the House could start voting as soon as next week, but no schedule was set.

Sticking points appear to include proposed corporate tax hikes to help finance the plan and an effort to lower prescription drug costs that has raised concerns from the pharmaceutical industry. Democrats are in search of a broad compromise between the party's progressives and moderates on the measure's price tag, revenue sources and basic components.

Biden to meet Pope Francis amid some rifts with US bishops

  Biden to meet Pope Francis amid some rifts with US bishops There’s an intriguing subplot to President Joe Biden’s upcoming meeting with Pope Francis. The world’s two most prominent Roman Catholics will be celebrating a shared outlook on church teaching and vital social issues even as Biden faces unwavering opposition from many U.S. Catholic bishops over his stances on abortion and LGBTQ rights. Less than three weeks after Biden’s visit to the Vatican on Friday, the American bishops will convene in Baltimore, with one of the agenda items inspired in part by conservatives who contend that Biden’s support for abortion rights should disqualify him from receiving Communion.

In this Sept. 28, 2021 file photo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. More than a dozen Senate Democrats are imploring President Joe Biden and congressional leaders to keep a national paid family leave program in his sweeping social services and climate change package. Gillibrand spearheaded the letter and says she's open to negotiating the terms of the program but she'd have a hard time voting for the legislation if it's not included. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press In this Sept. 28, 2021 file photo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. More than a dozen Senate Democrats are imploring President Joe Biden and congressional leaders to keep a national paid family leave program in his sweeping social services and climate change package. Gillibrand spearheaded the letter and says she's open to negotiating the terms of the program but she'd have a hard time voting for the legislation if it's not included. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

At the White House, the president has "rolled up his sleeves and is deep in the details of spreadsheets and numbers,” press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Biden was to spend the weekend at his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Psaki compared the work to starting Social Security and other major federal programs decades ago, then building on them in following years.

“Progress here is a historic package that will put in place systems and programs that have never existed in our society before," she said, noting the effort to expand child care and provide free prekindergarten for all youngsters.

Number of joint Biden-Harris appearances plummets: Report

  Number of joint Biden-Harris appearances plummets: Report Joe Biden and Kamala Harris appeared together publicly 18 times in February after rising to the White House on a promise to be a partnership. But in October they only had one joint press event.When Biden picked Harris to be the first female and woman of color to be vice president he strongly indicated she would be an equal partner in his administration.

Negotiations are proceeding as Biden more forcefully appeals to the American public, including in a televised town hall, for what he says are the middle-class values at the heart of his proposal.

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2021, file photo the Capitol is seen at dawn in Washington. Divided Democrats struggling to enact President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda are confronting one of Congress’ cruelest conundrums — your goals may be popular, but that doesn't ensure they'll become law or that voters will reward you.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2021, file photo the Capitol is seen at dawn in Washington. Divided Democrats struggling to enact President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda are confronting one of Congress’ cruelest conundrums — your goals may be popular, but that doesn't ensure they'll become law or that voters will reward you. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In a Senate that is evenly divided between the Democrats and firmly opposed Republicans, Biden can't afford to lose a single vote. He is navigating his own party's factions — progressives, who want major investments in social services, and centrists, who prefer to see the overall price tag go down.

“When you’re president of the United States, you have 50 Democrats — every one is a president. Every single one. So you gotta work things out,” he said during a CNN town hall Thursday.

Still, he expressed optimism about the process. “It's all about compromise. Compromise has become a dirty word, but bipartisanship and compromise still has to be possible,” he said.

Biden announces 'historic' deal — but no action yet

  Biden announces 'historic' deal — but no action yet WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he and Democrats in Congress have reached a “historic" framework for his sweeping domestic policy package. But he still needs to lock down votes from key colleagues for what's now a dramatically scaled-back bill. Eager to have a deal in hand before his departure late in the day for global summits, Biden made his case privately on Capitol Hill to House Democrats and publicly in a speech at the White House. He's now pressing for a still-robust package — $1.75 trillion of social services and climate change programs — that the White House believes can pass the 50-50 Senate.

On one issue — the taxes to pay for the package — the White House idea seemed to be making headway with a new strategy of abandoning plans for reversing Trump-era tax cuts in favor of an approach that would involve imposing a 15% corporate minimum tax and also taxing the investment incomes of billionaires to help finance the deal.

Biden has faced resistance from key holdouts, in particular Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who has not been on board with her party’s plan to undo President Donald Trump’s tax breaks for big corporations and individuals earning more than $400,000 a year.

The president was unusually forthcoming Thursday night about the sticking points in the negotiations with Sinema and another Democrat, conservative Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

While the president said Sinema opposed raising "a single penny in taxes” on the wealthy or corporations, a White House official later clarified that the president was referring to raising the top tax rates, not the range of tax proposals “which Sen. Sinema supports.”

If so, that could unlock a key piece of a deal. With a better understanding of the revenues available, Democrats can then develop a topline amount of spending for the package, and adjust the duration and sums for various programs accordingly.

Biden said Manchin doesn’t want to “rush” the transition to clean energy so quickly it will result in major job losses in his coal-producing state.

Even still, Biden acknowledged major reductions to his original vision.

He signaled the final plan would no longer provide free community college, but said he hoped to increase Pell Grants to compensate for the loss of the policy.

Biden, Macron meet ahead of G-20 in Rome: What to watch for at the summit

  Biden, Macron meet ahead of G-20 in Rome: What to watch for at the summit President Biden is attending the first in-person G20 leaders' summit since 2019. Here's what to watch for in Rome. The pandemic, increasingly urgent concerns about climate change, disruptions to the economic supply chain and uncertainty over the future of Afghanistan are some of the major topics on the summit agenda and likely to come up in Biden’s other meetings with world leaders.

He also said that what had been envisioned as a federally paid, months-long family leave program would be just four weeks.

Another work in progress — the idea of expanding Medicare to include dental, vision and hearing aid benefits for seniors, is a priority for Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent of Vermont.

Biden said he likes the idea, but with Manchin and Sinema objecting, the proposal is “a reach.”

Instead, Democrats, he said are considering offering seniors an $800 voucher to access dental care as well as another program for hearing aids that Sinema may support. However, the vision care component, Biden said, has been harder to resolve and there is no consensus yet.

Overall, Biden and his party are trying to shore up middle-class households, tackle climate change and have the most wealthy Americans and corporations pay what he calls their “fair share” for the nation.

In the mix are at least $500 billion in clean energy tax credits and other efforts to battle climate change, $350 billion for child care subsidies and free prekindergarten, an extension of the $300 monthly child tax credit put in place during the COVID-19 crisis, and money for health care provided through the Affordable Care Act.

The newly proposed tax provisions, though, have rankled Democrats who have long campaigned on scrapping the Republican-backed tax cuts that many believe unduly reward the wealthy and cost the government untold sums in lost revenue at a time of gaping income inequality. Many are furious that perhaps a lone senator could stymie that goal.

Under the changes being floated the 21% corporate rate would not change, nor would the top individual rate of 39.6% on those earning $400,000, or $450,000 for couples.

However, the White House is reviving the idea of a corporate minimum tax rate that would hit even companies that say they had no taxable income — a frequent target of Biden, who complains they pay “zero” in taxes.

The new tax on the wealthiest individuals would be modeled on legislation from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He has proposed taxing stock gains of people with more than $1 billion in assets — fewer than 1,000 Americans.

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Associated Press writers Alex Jaffe, Kevin Freking and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

COVID-19, corporate taxes, Iran nuclear deal on Biden's agenda for Day One of G-20 summit .
The G-20 summit that opened Saturday in Rome will mark the first time in two years that some of the world's most powerful leaders have met in person.Biden arrived at the modernist, cloud-shaped convention center in Rome where the Group of 20, or G-20, is meeting and was welcomed by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. A few minutes later, he joined other leaders for a traditional "family photo.

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