President Biden’s top legislative priority is getting slimmer as Democratic infighting over his massive social spending bill continues.
Biden’s original $3.5 trillion budget plan, packed with programs that have long been on the progressive wish list, is now expected to cost $2 trillion over the next 10 years, according to reports.
Free community college, a favorite of left-wing Dems like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, will likely be axed from the plan. But universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds will remain, negotiators say, as well as expanded child-care tax credits for poor and middle-income families.
Biden’s family leave program could be whittled down from the 12 weeks of paid time off he originally envisioned. The final bill will give workers four paid weeks off to care for a new baby or to manage a family health crisis.
The child tax credit increase that passed in one of last year’s COVID relief bills could also be scaled back. The annual credit of $3,000 for each child age 6 through 17 and $3,600 per child under 5 — paid to parents in monthly installment checks that Dems have touted as an anti-poverty measure — could be extended for one more year, rather than the 10-year expansion that the Biden budget first sought.
A linchpin of the Democrats’ climate-change plan — a program that would fine power companies if they refuse to convert to clean energy generation and give taxpayer money to those that do so — is out, insiders say, due to intense opposition from West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
Also out: a plan to expand Medicare to include dental, vision and hearing-aid coverage. Instead, Democrats might give seniors $800 vouchers they can spend on dental care.
“We’re down to four or five issues which I’m not going to negotiate on national television,” Biden said Thursday.
But a Senate insider this week described the Democrats’ internal battles over the bill as “a 9-way teeter-totter,” Politico reported, as factions squabbled to win a slice of the budget pie for their pet projects.