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Biden: Budget Talks Hit 'Stalemate'    09/25 08:41

   President Joe Biden says that talks over his $3.5 trillion rebuilding plan 
have hit a "stalemate" in Congress as he made the case for his expansive effort 
to recast the nation's tax and spending programs and make what he sees as 
sweeping, overdue investments.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden says that talks over his $3.5 
trillion rebuilding plan have hit a "stalemate" in Congress as he made the case 
for his expansive effort to recast the nation's tax and spending programs and 
make what he sees as sweeping, overdue investments.

   Biden spoke at the White House as Democrats in the House and Senate are 
laboring to finish drafts and overcome differences between the party's centrist 
and moderate factions. Despite efforts by the president and congressional 
leaders to show progress, Biden on Friday cast the road ahead as long and 
potentially cumbersome, even with upcoming deadlines.

   "We're getting down to the hard spot here," Biden told reporters at the 
White House. "We're at this stalemate at the moment."

   Biden said the process is "going to be up and down" but "hopefully at the 
end of the day I'll be able to deliver on what I said I would do."

   The president's acknowledgment of Democrats' disagreements -- and they have 
serious differences over taxes, health, climate change and the ultimate price 
tag -- contrasted with congressional leaders' more upbeat tone in recent days. 
Using carefully chosen words, top Democrats have seemed to be trying to create 
a sense of momentum as House votes approach.

   On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., predicted passage of both 
pillars of Biden's domestic agenda. One is a still-evolving $3.5 trillion 
package of social safety net and climate programs, the other a separate $1 
trillion measure financing highway, internet and other infrastructure projects 
that's already passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

   "We're going to pass both bills," she told reporters.

   But she did not spell out how she and her Senate counterpart, Majority 
Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would resolve disagreements and distrust between 
their party's moderate and progressive wings that's stalled both measures. And 
there remained confusion about the voting schedule, which will be crucial.

   Pelosi promised House moderates last month that by this Monday, the chamber 
will consider the infrastructure bill, centrists' top priority.

   But progressives are threatening to vote to derail the infrastructure 
legislation until a final version of their favorite -- the $3.5 trillion social 
and environment bill -- passes the Senate and returns to the House. 
Progressives think delaying the public works bill would pressure moderates to 
back the larger measure.

   "We're bringing the bill up, we will have a vote when we have the votes," 
Pelosi told a reporter Friday about the infrastructure bill's timing. While she 
said debate would begin Monday, her remarks suggested that final passage of the 
public works legislation could slip.

   Pelosi also told reporters that "the plan" was for her chamber to consider 
the $3.5 trillion package next week as well. It remained unclear how 
House-Senate bargainers would solve their differences over that bill that 
quickly.

   The president said his private meetings with some two dozen Democratic 
lawmakers this week in efforts to hasten progress and close the deal went well 
-- describing the tone as collegial and with "no hollering."

   But as lawmakers raised objections over the sweep and scope of the plan, 
which is to be funded by higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, Biden 
said he tried to get them focused on priorities -- what they can and can't live 
with.

   "It's about paying your fair share, for lord's sake," Biden said. "There 
clearly is enough, from a panoply of options, to pay for whatever it is."

   In a stark reality check, Biden suggested talks could drag to the end of the 
year. "It's just going to take some time," he said.

   Lawmakers are working nonstop and Biden is facing pressure to close the 
deal. Pelosi met Friday at the Capitol with her leadership team, and the House 
Budget Committee planned a rare Saturday session to take the strictly 
procedural step of sending the $3.5 trillion bill, as drafted by 13 other House 
panels, to the full chamber without any changes.

   Before the House votes on that measure, it is certain to change, perhaps 
more than once, to reflect compromises reached with Senate Democrats.

   Biden's big vision over his "Build Back Better" campaign promise proposes 
expanding health, education and federal programs, with more services for 
Americans of all ages, while investing heavily in efforts to tackle climate 
change. All this would be paid for largely by hiking tax rates on corporations 
and wealthy individuals, those earning beyond $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for 
married couples.

   But centrist Democrats see the overall price tag as too much, while 
progressive lawmakers are hesitant to compromise any further after already 
having dropped even more ambitious ideas.

 
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