- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 19, 2021

President Biden will meet with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a critical swing vote for his domestic agenda, on Tuesday as Democrats ramp up efforts to secure a compromise on Mr. Biden‘s proposed $3.5 trillion, 10-year social welfare package.

Mr. Biden will host the freshman Arizona Democratic senator at the White House for a meeting on the standoff that has put the party’s entire legislative agenda in jeopardy. Mr. Biden is expected to stress the need for Democratic unity in pushing the package forward.

After the meeting with Ms. Sinema, Mr. Biden will hold larger discussions at the White House with two distinct groups of lawmakers representing the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic congressional caucus.

Mr. Biden’s personal intercession comes as work on the legislation has stalled within the Senate. Ms. Sinema and fellow moderate Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, are balking at both the size and scope of the spending package, which is linked to a separate $1.2 trillion physical infrastructure package Mr. Biden wants to pass as well.

Both senators want to see the bill’s final price tag trimmed, with Mr. Manchin repeatedly calling for a figure not exceeding $1.5 trillion over 10 years. In recent weeks, Ms. Sinema has also expressed skepticism about the major tax increases Democrats have proposed to fund the new spending.

The intransigence has forced Mr. Biden to lower the price tag on the massive bill from $3.5 trillion to $2.2 trillion, raising the ire of liberals in his party.

“We’re not going to get $3.5 trillion. We’ll get less than that, but we’re gonna get it,” Mr. Biden said last week. “And we’re going to come back and get the rest.”

Despite the concession by the White House, there still remains widespread disagreement among moderate and leftist Democrats on how to move forward.

Progressives say that demands to set income limits on some programs and cutting others out entirely are non-starters for them.

“Congress can pass massive tax breaks for corporations and the top 1% without batting an eye, but when it comes to delivering long-overdue support for working families and communities — that’s when we need to slow down, impose limitations and make cuts,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Washington state Democrat who has emerged as the key negotiator for progressive Democrats. “I won’t stand for it.”

Democrats had planned to use a special procedure to force the $3.5 trillion spending package through the Senate along party lines. The process, known as budget reconciliation, allows some spending and tax measures to avoid the 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass with a simple majority of 51 votes.

The Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, and Mr. Biden cannot afford to lose a single vote. At the moment, Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin are the lone Democratic holdouts in the Senate to a deal.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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