Speed Reads

Build Back Cheaper

Biden hosts Manchin and Schumer in Delaware, only reports 'progress' on final spending deal

President Biden had Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) up to his home in Delaware on Sunday to see if they could iron out some last wrinkles in the final Build Back Better domestic spending package Democrats say is close to clinched. The four hours of talks were a "productive discussion," the White House said, and the Democrats "continued to make progress." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told CNN on Sunday that the negotiations are about 90 percent complete. 

Manchin is inclined to support a proposal to tax investment income of billionaires — fewer than 1,000 people — to pay for the package, since Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) vetoed tax rate increases on corporations and the wealthy. Still unresolved is the fate of expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing — Pelosi said maybe the dental part will be cut — as well as child care assistance, free pre-kindergarten, and the tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Manchin wants to stick with his $1.5 trillion ceiling, while Biden and Democratic leaders are urging $2 trillion, Politico reports, adding that "if Manchin comes up to a higher number, it could save a program or two from being cut entirely from the package." The Associated Press reports that the framework is "being eyed as $1.75 trillion package." Pelosi told CNN that even half the original $3.5 trillion Build Back Better proposal would still be "bigger than anything we have ever done in terms of addressing the needs of America's working families."

Pelosi said she expects an agreement by the end of the week, paving the way for the House to approve a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill before Sunday. 

Biden leaves Thursday for Rome and then a major climate change conference in Scotland, and between the incomplete negotiations, two closer-than-expected gubernatorial races Nov. 2, the next nine days are pivotal to the fate of Biden's presidency, Politico's Playbook argues. When Biden arrives back in the U.S. a week from Wednesday, his political, legislative, and international standing will have been transformed by the outcome of this week's events."