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Biden, Key Senators Huddle on Budget   10/24 13:12

   President Joe Biden hosted budget talks Sunday with two pivotal senator in 
hopes of resolving lingering disputes over Democrats' long-stalled effort to 
craft an expansive social and environment measure.

   WASHINGTON (AP) --- President Joe Biden hosted budget talks Sunday with two 
pivotal senators in hopes of resolving lingering disputes over Democrats' 
long-stalled effort to craft an expansive social and environment measure.

   The White House said the session with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 
D-N.Y., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was held at the president's home in 
Delaware, where he was spending the weekend.

   Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., two of their party's most moderate 
members, have insisted on reducing the size of the package and have pressed for 
other changes.

   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was waiting for the Senate to wrap up 
talks on the framework and was expecting a plan to be introduced as early as 
Monday. Top Democrats are scrambling to act on legislation by week's end so 
they can pass a separate, roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill by Oct. 31, 
when a series of transportation programs will lapse.

   "I think we're pretty much there," said Pelosi, D-Calif., stressing that a 
few "last decisions" need to be made. "It is less than what was projected to 
begin with, but it's still bigger than anything we have ever done in terms of 
addressing the needs of America's working families."

   Democrats initially planned that the measure would contain $3.5 trillion 
worth of spending and tax initiatives over 10 years. But demands by moderates 
led by Manchin and Sinema to contain costs mean its final price tag could well 
be less than $2 trillion.

   Disputes remain over whether some priorities must be cut or excluded. These 
include plans to expand Medicare coverage, child care assistance and helping 
lower-income college students. Manchin, whose state has a major coal industry, 
has opposed proposals to penalize utilities that do not switch quickly to clean 

   Pelosi said Democrats were still working to keep in provisions for four 
weeks of paid family leave but acknowledged that other proposals such as 
expanding Medicare to include dental coverage could prove harder to save 
because of cost. "Dental will take a little longer to implement," she said.

   Also expected to be trimmed is a clean energy proposal that was the 
centerpiece of Biden's strategy for fighting climate change. Biden has set a 
goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030. But 
Manchin has made clear he opposes the initial clean energy proposal, which was 
to have the government impose penalties on electric utilities that fail to meet 
clean energy benchmarks and provide financial rewards to those that do.

   Democrats were hoping Biden could cite major accomplishments when he attends 
a global summit in Scotland on climate change in early November. Sen. Angus 
King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, said the expected cuts 
to the clean energy provisions in the spending bill were especially 
disappointing because "it weakens Joe Biden's hands in Glasgow."

   "If we're going to get the rest of the world to take serious steps to remedy 
this problem, we've got to do it ourselves," he said.

   Pelosi insisted that Democrats had pieced together other policies in the 
spending bill that could reduce emissions. "We will have something that will 
meet the president's goals," she said.

   The White House and congressional leaders have tried to push monthslong 
negotiations toward a conclusion by the end of October. Democrats' aim is to 
produce an outline by then that would spell out the overall size of the measure 
and describe policy goals that leaders as well as progressives and moderates 
would endorse.

   The wide-ranging measure carries many of Biden's top domestic priorities. 
Party leaders want to end internal battles, avert the risk that the effort 
could fail and focus voters' attention on the plan's popular programs for 
helping families with child care, health costs and other issues.

   Politically, Democrats also want to make progress that could help Democrat 
Terry McAuliffe win a neck-and-neck Nov. 2 gubernatorial election in Virginia.

   The hope is that an agreement between the party's two factions would create 
enough trust to let Democrats finally push through the House the separate $1 
trillion package of highway and broadband projects.

   That bipartisan measure was approved over the summer by the Senate. But 
progressives have held it up in the House as leverage to prompt moderates to 
back the bigger, broader package of health care, education and environment 

   Rep. Ro Khanna, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, maintained 
that his caucus will not budge on supporting the infrastructure bill by the 
Oct. 31 deadline if there is no agreement on the broader spending package, 
which would be passed under so-called budget reconciliation rules.

   "The president needs the reconciliation agreement to go to Glasgow," said 
Khanna, D-Calif. "That's what is going to deal with climate change, that's 
what's going to hit his goals of 50% reduction by 2030. I'm confident we will 
have an agreement."

   Pelosi spoke on CNN's "State of the Union," King appeared on NBC's "Meet the 
Press" and Khanna on "Fox News Sunday."

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