Joe Biden said he was still hopeful of reaching a deal on his trillion-dollar congressional agenda as he headed to his hometown of Scranton on Wednesday afternoon, after conceding to Democrats that some of his most ambitious proposals will have to go.
‘I think we’ll get a deal,’ he told reporters before boarding Air Force One for the short hop to Pennsylvania and a chance to pitch his social spending plans.
He leaves behind a party that remains deadlocked in Washington.
Biden gave Democrats an end of the week deadline to come to consensus on a topline number for his ambitious package of programs, including funds for education, healthcare and to combat climate change.
But to break the stalemate between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party, the $3.5 trillion plan will be cut nearly in half.
Getting the ax is his proposal for two years of free community college. Other options being considered are cutting back the child tax credit and paid family leave; and removing a clean energy program after Senator Joe Manchin objected to it.
‘There will be something for higher education, but it probably won’t be the free community college,’ said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Joe Biden will return to his hometown of Scranton on Wednesday to pitch his trillion-dollar congressional agenda after conceding it must be cut
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, speaks to reporters after liberals met with Biden for two hours at the White House on Tuesday
A day earlier, Jayapal other progressives met with Biden at the White House as the president tried to bring moderates and liberals to agreement.
They conceded that cuts were inevitable if the measure is to be passed.
‘It’s not the robust vision the president wants or that we wanted,’ noted Rep. Ro Khanna, another liberal.
Biden also held separate meetings with a group of moderate lawmakers and with Senators Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema at the White House on Tuesday as he pushed for Democrats to close a deal.
The president felt ‘more confident’ after the day of meetings, press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
‘There was broad agreement that there is urgency in moving forward over the next several days and that the window for finalizing a package is closing,’ she noted.
Biden wants a framework for the plan by the end of the week with its topline number looking to be between $1.75 trillion and $2 trillion, about half of the original.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed confidence Wednesday morning negotiations were on track.
‘We will be where we need to be in order to reach our goal,’ she told reporters on Capitol Hill. She gave a deadline of Halloween to pass both Biden’s social plan and his infrastructure proposal.
The president hit the road Wednesday as part of his sales pitch. He’ll return to his hometown of Scranton, Pa., for the first time as president. He was last there on Election Day 2020. He lived in Scranton until he was 10.
He will deliver remarks about his agenda items at Electric City Trolley Museum.
‘He will talk about growing up in Scranton, and the way he’s experienced their values and it’s belief that we need an economy that works for working people,’ Psaki said.
Part of Biden’s campaign pitch was what he called ‘Scranton vs. Wall Street,’ where he aruged he, as president, would shift the economic playing field back in favor of Americans in places like Scranton.
He will echo that theme on Wednesday and include infrastructure as a large part of his pitch.
The White House pointed out the president’s infrastructure plan would give Pennsylvania more than $11 billion for federal-aid highways and $1.6 billion for bridges. The plan would also give the state nearly $3 billion to improve public transportation options.
Additionally, local officials in Scranton want to revive passenger train service between Scranton and New York City, which would be paid for under the infrastructure plan. Biden is a major supporter of Amtrak and lover of trains.
His infrastructure plan has bipartisan support but has become caught up in the inter-party war over Biden’s budget package of social programs. Pelosi delayed a vote on it earlier this month as she and party leadership work to bring the two wings of Democrats together.
Joe Biden was last in Scranton on Election Day 2020 as seen above
During that Scranton stop, Biden visited his boyhood home
Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin want Biden’s ambitious social packate scaled back and Biden cannot afford to lose their votes in the Senate
Manchin and Sinema want the social package – paid for with a mix of tax cuts – lowered in size and scope. And, in the evenly divided 50-50 Senate, Biden cannot lose a single Democratic vote.
Meanwhile, progressives, led by Jayapal, have said they will not support Biden’s infrastructure plan without a deal on the package of social programs.
Now, as both sides gather to discuss how to trim the package, progressives are pushing to reduce the duration of many of the programs in the plan but preserve them all – even if its just for a short duration.
Moderates argue for focusing money on a smaller number of programs for the long term.
White House adviser Cedric Richmond told NBC on Wednesday the focus is on the items in the plan and not its price tag – a comment that came as progressives said Biden agreed to their approach in their meeting on Tuesday.
‘The price is not what we’re focused on. We’re focused on making sure we can deliver the programs and services and investments in families and whatever that adds up to, it adds up to,’ Richmond said.
Part of the cuts would be extending the child tax credit by one year instead of the four originally discussed.
Also, Biden’s Clean Energy Plan would go and instead be replaced by tax breaks for energy producers that reach emission-reduction goals, which would better align with Manchin’s priorities.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emerged from a meeting of Senate Democrats on Monday to note that there is ‘universal agreement in that room that we have to come to an agreement, and we’ve got to get it done, and want to get it done this week.’
‘Everyone is going to be disappointed in certain things, but everyone is going to be glad about certain things,’ he noted.
A series of events at the end of the month is driving the push to pass the president’s agenda: transportation funding runs out at the end of October, Biden needs to head to Rome for the G20 summit and Democrats need a win ahead of the Virginia governor’s election, where their candidate Terry McAuliffee is struggling.
The Nov. 2 gubernatorial election in Virginia is being seen a referendum on Biden. The result will be used to forecast Democrats’ chances of retraining control over Congress in next year’s midterm election.