The White House has unveiled what it hopes will be the final framework for a vast social spending bill, after months of negotiations with congressional Democrats whittled away many of President Joe Biden's biggest campaign promises but still left vast investments in child care, education, and a tax overhaul intact.
The administration is "confident" that the framework and its $1.75 trillion pricetag will win the support of "every Democratic senator and pass the House," a senior administration official told reporters ahead of Biden's call with congressional Democrats on Thursday morning.
But asked whether the White House had secured the commitment of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona-two holdouts whose opposition to a plethora of social spending items have cut the size of the bill in half-administration officials would only say that they would not speak for any congressional Democrats.
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Among the items totally cut from the package include paid family leave, free community college, and empowering the government to negotiate on prescription-drug prices for Medicare and Medicaid, all of which were major campaign promises that are widely popular with the American people-and with the House progressives, who will be key to the passage of Biden's "hard" infrastructure package.
But what remains still amounts to one of the largest social spending packages since the Great Depression, paid for, officials said, by an increase in taxes on hyperwealthy individuals and corporations that will not only pay for the new spending but will actually reduce the deficit.
"No one making less than $400,000 will have their taxes raised. Period," an official said, invoking the one promise Biden made on the campaign trail that has been sacrosanct throughout the negotiation process. The tax increases, officials said, will come in the form of a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations with more than $1 billion in annual earnings, a 1 percent surcharge on stock buybacks, and by applying a 5 percent tax rate increase on income above $10 million, and an additional 3 percent on income above $25 million.
"It is entirely paid for by rewarding work, not wealth," an administration official said. "When you put it all together, the pricetag for these investments… will be zero, and will in fact reduce the deficit."
The details of the spending package, while missing major components of the president's "Build Back Better" agenda, still touch on most of the president's major areas of commitment: child care, climate change, health care, and investments in social services and tax cuts aimed at the middle and working classes.
The bill would create universal free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-old children in settings ranging from public schools to Head Start programs; add up to $300 per month in the child tax credit; and would expand child-care access to 90 percent of families with young children.
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According to an outline of the framework, parents who are working, looking for work, or are participating in an education or training program who make less than 2.5 times their state's median income "will receive support to cover the cost of quality care based on a sliding scale," capped at 7 percent of their income. For a hypothetical two-parent household with one toddler earning $100,000 per year in income, the framework would produce more than $5,000 in child care savings annually.
The framework, an official said, would amount to "the most transformative investment in children and caregiving in generations."
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On climate change, the framework would provide clean-energy tax credits that would, for example, cut the cost of installing rooftop solar on a private residence by 30 percent, and would extend tax credits for electric vehicles that would lower the cost of an electric vehicle by as much as $12,500 for middle-class Americans.
"The framework's $555 billion investment represents the largest single investment in our clean energy economy in history," the administration's writeup claims, with investments in clean energy technology that would be built in America.
The package would also include "the largest expansion of health care coverage since the Affordable Care Act," an administration official said, decreasing the number of uninsured Americans by seven million people by reducing premiums for plans bought on public health exchanges, closing the Medicaid coverage gap, and expanding Medicare to include hearing benefits-although it would not include a similar expansion in vision and dental care, a key promise Biden made in the early days of negotiations.
Another major hole in the plan, Biden's vows to create free community college, has been replaced by a $550 increase in the maximum Pell Grant amount for more the more than 5 million students enrolled in public and private nonprofit colleges. The program would also be extended to so-called "DREAMers," children of migrants who were brought into the United States as young children.
The framework would also make a $100 million investment in the immigration system to address processing backlogs for immigration courts and asylum claims, as well as provide representation for those going through immigration proceedings.
Administration officials made it clear that many of the missing issues were simply not passable with the opposition of Manchin and/or Sinema, telling reporters that "there are not yet enough votes to get something across the line" on prescription drug negotiations, for example, but vowed to "keep fighting" in the future on some of the president's key promises.
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