Biden is pitching idea to give the elderly $800 debit cards to help with medical and dental as Democrats haggle over slimmed-down reconciliation bill and Pelosi says it will be smaller but ‘still historic’
- Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a similar idea last month
- Biden has become more engaged in negotiations, scheduling spate of meetings
- The $3.5 trillion framework was on track to get trimmed below $2 trillion
- Democrats need to secure support from Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema
- White House tells Democratic lawmakers there likely won’t be corporate tax hike
- President Joe Biden planned to raise corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%
- Plan was to have hikes fund social programs including child care, health care
- But centrist Democrats in Congress have balked at the $3.5trillion price tag
- Biden White House now scrambling to strike compromise to save legislation
- Trump administration cut corporate taxes from 35% to 21% in 2017
President Joe Biden is getting more personally engaged in negotiations as lawmakers haggle over the composition of a scaled back reconciliation bill – pressing an idea to give seniors gift cards for dental benefits.
Biden is faced with a highly complex task – figuring out which prized programs to throw overboard from a $3.5 trillion framework in order to try to secure support from two Senate Democratic holdouts.
He has already signaled that a program providing free community college is already not likely to survive, despite support by first lady Dr. Jill Biden, who teaches at a community college.
A new benefit extending Medicare benefits to cover hearing and dental coverage appears likely to survive negotiations.
President Joe Biden is seen above returning to the White House on Wednesday. Biden has been touting a proposal to give seniors $800 gift cards they could use on dental spending through Medicare. It could fill in a gap if a new benefit Democrats want to create takes a while to phase in
But Biden is touting another short-term benefit: $800 gift cards for the elderly to help them spend on dental coverage as part of Medicare, the Washington Post reported.
Sanders, who has championed the dental and hearing expansion for Medicare, has proposed his own $1,000 version of a gift card proposal.
One reason is that establishing a new benefit under Medicare will take time. A House bill wouldn’t have it in place until 2028, with hearing benefits beginning to come online in 2023. The debit card may be one way to fill in the gap.
A summary provided by Senate Democrats on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package says only: ‘Expanding Medicare to include dental, vision, hearing benefits and lowering the eligibility age.’
Biden has been meeting with various factions of the House and Senate for weeks. According to the Post, Biden has revealed is feeling heat from his wife on the higher education benefit, which was also a Sanders priority. Sanders chairs the Senate budget committee. The president has joked that if he doesn’t push for the spending he might need to find another place to sleep.
‘Although it’s a smaller bill, it’s still historic,’ said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of a slimmed-down reconciliation bill being negotiated
Remarks by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday indicated negotiators have been making some decisions.
‘Although it’s a smaller bill, it’s still historic,’ she said.
She responded to a question about negotiators pulling back tax hikes on the wealthy, amid reported objections by Kyrsten Sinema. ‘That’s one of the options, that’s for sure,’ she said. She pointed to House-passed hikes in corporate tax rates and capital gains. ‘It was a very well received proposal because it wasn’t punitive, it was fair,’ she said.
As for reports of Sinema’s opposition, Pelosi said: ‘Her position is well known.’
The White House told Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday that a proposed hike in US corporate taxes is unlikely to make it into their signature social spending bill, according to a congressional source familiar with the discussions.
President Joe Biden’s plans to hike the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, a key campaign promise, are likely to be one of the steep concessions he makes to steer his economic revival package through Congress, the White House disclosed in the private meeting with top Democrats.
The proposed rate had sparked concern among small business owners who feared they could be penalized as harshly as larger corporations the proposed rise was intended to target, despite assurances from Biden that it would have no such impact.
‘There is an expansive menu of options for how to finance the president’s plan to ensure our economy delivers for hardworking families, and none of them are off the table,’ said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates.
Biden, his aides and congressional leadership are racing to close a deal as soon as this week on a set of tax hikes they hope will fund more than $1.75trillion over a decade in programs ranging from childcare to eldercare, healthcare, affordable housing and climate change mitigation.
They have no margin for error because Democrats hold only narrow majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate. Republicans oppose the legislation.
‘The president knows that he’s not going to get everything he wants in this package,’ White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One.
‘Nor will any member of Congress, probably, and that’s what compromise is all about.’
The original price tag for the social spending bill was $3.5trillion, but it has now been hacked back to less than $2 trillion, with tuition-free community care college and indefinite raises to child tax credits also on the chopping block.
Democrats hope to pass the measure in the Senate through a ‘reconciliation’ process that requires support by only a simple majority rather than the 60 votes needed for most legislation in the evenly split 100-member chamber.
Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tiebreaking vote.
Biden, who framed the 2020 election against Republican then-President Donald Trump as one between working-class Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Manhattan’s Park Avenue, pitched the tax hike as an effort to make sure the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share.
Trump and congressional Republicans cut corporate rates to 21 percent from 35 percent in 2017.
After taking office in January, Biden paired the tax hike with a mix of programs he has argued will put the United States on a more sustainable economic footing to compete with China, from universal pre-kindergarten to dental benefits for seniors and incentives to encourage a shift to low-carbon energy sources.
Progressive legislators led by Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, have argued for a hike in corporate taxes. Sanders had made dental, vision and hearing coverage under Medicare a priority as well
But centrist Democrats in Congress, including Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia (left) and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona (right), have balked at the proposed tax hikes and the $3.5trillion price tag
Business groups and Republicans have fought the measures, arguing they will hamper the economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two moderate Democrat senators – Joe Mancin and Krysten Sinema – have also held out, and are believed to be responsible for many of the concessions Biden has made so far.
‘When I ran for president, I came back to Scranton,’ Biden said on Wednesday on his first trip back to his birthplace since Election Day last November.
‘I resolved to bring Scranton values to bear, making fundamental shifts in how our economy works for working people, build the economy from the ground up … and not from the top down.’
Top Democrats may now put on the table alternate financing proposals for the bill that have been discussed for weeks, including imposing new levies on stock buybacks and business partnerships, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Kyrsten Sinema, a key swing-vote Democrat who has expressed the most concern about tax hikes, may be amenable to other measures that only raise rates for highly profitable large corporations paying next to nothing in federal taxes under current rules, according to Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren.
‘Our problem is partly about too low a rate at the top, and obviously some Democrats disagree,’ Warren, a Democrat, said on CNN.
‘But I think all the Democrats agree, by golly, everybody ought to be paying something.’
The S&P 500 closed 0.4 percent higher after the news about the White House’s private comments was first reported by The Washington Post.
After-hours trading in the US stock index trended 0.3 percent higher.