House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer aims to strike a deal on President Joe Biden’s social safety net plan before Monday, as Democrats scramble to save their economic agenda.
“We’d like to have a framework by the end of — frankly today, but no later than the end of the weekend,” the second Democrat in the House of Representatives told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday.
Top Democrats have held a series of talks in recent days as they try to persuade centrists and progressives to sign on to a sprawling plan to invest in childcare, paid leave, education, health care and climate policy. The party has to resolve disputes — about what should be included in the package and how to pay for it — before it can agree to an outline.
Party leaders had hoped to pass the bill as the largest investment for working families in decades by the end of the month. They see it as a complement to a bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill that House progressives have threatened to block until the chamber can vote on the larger safety net plan.
While Democrats still have to get past several sticking points, party leaders sounded optimistic about a deal in the coming days. Biden said during a meeting at CNN’s town hall Thursday evening, that the talks fell to “four or five” unspecified issues.
“I think I’ll get a deal,” he said. Asked if he thought Democrats would reach a deal before he leaves for Europe in a week, Biden said “certainly.”
The economic plan as first identified would have invested in childcare, paid time off, expanded Medicare, pre-kindergarten for all, free community college, enhanced child tax credit extension and green energy adoption. It would have raised tax rates on corporations and the wealthiest individuals to offset spending.
Democrats had to scrap parts of the bill to bring its price down from $3.5 trillion to $2 trillion or less. Lawmakers aim to cut costs to placate centrist Senator Joe Manchin, the DW.V. , and Kirsten Sinema, De Ares.
And while Democrats try to pass the plan by a simple majority in the evenly divided Senate, any single split could derail it.
Biden on Thursday confirmed some of the cuts his party is likely to make. He said both Manchin and Cinema oppose adding dental, vision and hearing coverage to Medicare — a priority for Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The president said negotiators could consider getting a coupon for $800 for dental costs.
Biden also noted that lawmakers will likely remove two free years of community college from the plan.
Biden said Democrats will likely have to scale back their proposal to offer paid family leave to most Americans. The president said lawmakers could settle on four weeks of vacation instead of 12. Biden and top Democrats see politics as an essential part of the package.
Democrats also looked for new ways to pay for the plan after Sinema indicated it would not support higher tax rates for businesses and individuals. Sources told CNBC this week that lawmakers will consider other options including taxes on share buybacks, a minimum tax on corporate registry income, a comprehensive reform of international taxation and increased tax enforcement.
Spending cut demands have left Democrats with tough choices. They can cancel programs entirely, keep them in place for shorter periods of time or use a combination of both methods to lower the price tag.
“Personally, I’m in the camp to do less and do things well, and make sure they work effectively,” Hoyer told CNBC on Friday.
House Progressives pushed to keep as many proposed programs as possible but phase them out more quickly.
Bridging the gap between progressive and centrist priorities has proven daunting for months. At least one of the lawmakers who will determine the fate of the plan considers an imminent deal unrealistic.
Manchin told reporters he did not expect a framework to be put in place this week despite “good progress” toward an agreement.
“It’s not going to happen any time soon, you guys,” he said.
– CNBC’s Yan Moi contributed to this report
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