WASHINGTON - After months of negotiations and intraparty fighting, Democrats said on Thursday they are close to agreeing on what policies will be included in a bill to enact President Joe Biden's social safety net proposals.
Democrats hope to reach a deal by the end of the week - though lawmakers have blown past pervious deadlines and there was still doubt they would meet this arbitrary goal.
Getting there has already forced Democrats to abandon some provisions - including saying this week they are likely to ditch a proposal to provide free community college nationwide and that they will need to scale back the child tax credit.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that they're "almost to the stretch" and are "making great progress" in their talks over the multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better plan. The speaker said that while the measure will be smaller than the original $3.5 trillion proposal, it will still have a positive impact on middle-class Americans.
"It's transformative," Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference. "It's historic, it's life-changing and it will pass soon."
Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Thursday that Democrats have had a "very productive week" and have "inched closer to finalizing an agreement."
Asked how critical it is for Democrats to reach a framework by Friday, Pelosi said, "We've always been on track for doing that. The House has been on schedule. We have a goal, we have a timetable."
The final hang-ups, however, involve members of the Senate. Two moderate Democrats in the Senate, Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, have been pushing against some of the more progressive provisions, including arguing the bill shouldn't be too large. And because of Sinema's opposition to increasing the corporate tax rate, the White House appears to be making changes to the plan.
Senior Biden officials briefed top Democratic lawmakers on a potential shift in their tax plans during a call earlier Wednesday, a source familiar told NBC News, which was first reported by The Washington Post. The new plan could exclude the corporate tax rate, the source said. Biden had initially called for increasing the corporate tax rate to 28 percent.
Negotiators are considering a range of other ideas including a tax on the assets of billionaires and a new minimum tax on corporations. Other measures already on the table include beefing up tax enforcement and an overhaul of international tax provisions. Nothing is off the table, the source stressed.
Pelosi was asked about the possibility of dropping Biden's plan to increase the corporate tax rate and capital gains, she only said that Democrats are "narrowing" the scope of the bill and that that particular issue is being handled by the chairs of the House Finance Committee and Ways and Means Committee.
The speaker, however, emphasized that the legislation would be "fully paid for," which was also conveyed by the White House on Wednesday night.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement that the bill would be paid for in full - meaning it would not add to the national debt - "by having the richest taxpayers and big corporations pay their fair share and without raising taxes on any American making less than $400,000."
Meanwhile, as Democrats try to reach an agreement, Biden will be trying to build public support on Thursday night when he answers questions a CNN town hall in Baltimore.
Earlier this week, Biden told progressive lawmakers in a White House meeting that Democrats would have to strip out tuition-free community college from the bill and also reduce the child tax credit to only a one-year extension.
Sources said that Biden told progressives Tuesday night that he was eyeing a price range of $1.75 trillion to $1.9 trillion for the final package.