Pelosi upbeat on Biden deal but Manchin pans billionaire tax

Pelosi upbeat on Biden deal but Manchin pans billionaire tax 5

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told colleagues Wednesday that Democrats are in “pretty good shape” on President Joe Biden’s sweeping domestic plan and a related $1 trillion infrastructure bill as they race to wrap up talks ahead of his departure for global summits.

Her upbeat comments came as Biden and Democrats try to strike agreement soon on his big proposal, now about $1.75 trillion in social services and climate change programs, in part to show foreign leaders the U.S. is getting things done under his still-new administration.

White House officials were meeting at the Capitol with two key holdout Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

But Manchin hit the brakes, panning the Democrats’ proposed new billionaires’ tax, saying he didn’t like the idea of “targeting” the wealthy. Still, he said it’s time to move forward on a framework for Biden’s plan.

“People in the stratosphere, rather than trying to penalize, we ought to be pleased that this country is able to produce the wealth,” Manchin told reporters ahead of the meeting.

Manchin said he prefers a minimum 15% flat “patriotic tax” to ensure the wealthiest Americans don’t skip out on paying any taxes. “There’s a patriotic duty that you should be paying something to this great country,” he said.

Nevertheless, he said: “We need to move forward — the president has made that very clear — he wants to move forward and we owe it to the president to move forward.”

The quickening pace of negotiations came as Senate Democrats pushed past skeptics Wednesday and unveiled a new billionaires’ tax proposal, designed to help pay for the package and edge his party closer to an overall agreement.

There’s a Sunday deadline to approve the smaller, bipartisan roads-and-bridges infrastructure bill or risk allowing funds for routine transportation programs to expire. But that $1 trillion bill has been held up by progressive lawmakers who are refusing to give their support without the bigger Biden deal.

Pelosi told colleagues she would communicate later in the day on developments, according to another person who requested anonymity to discuss the speaker’s private remarks at a meeting of House Democrats.

“That will determine, our timetable, our course of action but we are in pretty good shape,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sounded a similar chord opening the chamber.

“An agreement is within arm’s length,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. “We are hopeful that we can come to a framework agreement by the end of today.”

Pelosi reiterated that in order for the House to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, Democrats need to have “the trust, the confidence and the reality” in Biden’s broader package.

One part of that plan is coming into focus: The unveiling of the billionaires tax Wednesday could help resolve the revenue side of the equation as Democrats try to settle on a tax strategy.

The proposed new tax would hit the gains of those with more than $1 billion in assets or incomes of more than $100 million a year, and it could begin to shore up the big social services and climate change plan.

The new billionaires’ proposal, coupled with a new 15% corporate minimum tax, would provide alternative revenue sources that Biden needs to win over Sinema, who had rejected the party’s earlier idea of reversing Trump-era tax breaks on corporations and the wealthy to raise revenue.

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