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Oct. 21, 2021, 7:55 p.m. EDT

Democrats scramble to rework Biden’s $2 trillion spending plan

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The White House and Democrats are hurriedly reworking key aspects of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion domestic policy plan, trimming the  social services  and  climate change programs  and rethinking new taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for a scaled-back package.

The changes come as Biden more forcefully appeals to the American public, including in a televised town hall Thursday evening, for what he says are the middle-class values at  the heart of his proposal . As long-sought programs are adjusted or eliminated, Democratic leaders are showing great deference to Biden’s preferences to swiftly wrap up talks and reach a deal in the narrowly held Congress.

Even a new White House idea abandoning plans for  reversing the Trump-era tax rates  in favor of a approach that would involve taxing the investment incomes of billionaires to help finance the deal appears acceptable to top Democrats. The leadership is racing to finish negotiations, possibly by week’s end.

“We have a goal. We have a timetable. We have milestones, and we’ve met them all,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who predicted on Thursday, “It will pass soon.”

Talks between the White House and Democratic leaders are focused on reducing what had been a $3.5 trillion package to about $2 trillion, in what would be an unprecedented federal effort to  expand social services  for millions and address the rising threat of climate change.

With stark Republican opposition and no Democratic votes to spare, Biden must keep all lawmakers in his party — centrists and progressives — aligned.

An abrupt change of course came late Wednesday when the White House floated new ways to pay for parts of the proposal by shelving a long-planned increase in corporate and top income tax rates but adding others, including a tax on the investment gains of the very richest Americans.

Biden faces resistance from key holdouts, in particular  Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.,  who has not been on board with her party’s plan to undo President Donald Trump’s tax breaks for big corporations or individuals earning more than $400,000 a year.

The White House believes Sinema “is working with us in good faith and we are working with her in good faith,” deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday.

The newly proposed tax provisions, though, are likely to sour progressives and even some moderate Democrats who have long campaigned on scrapping the Republican-backed 2017 tax cuts that many believe unduly reward the wealthy and cost the government untold sums in lost revenue at a time of gaping income inequality. Many are furious that perhaps a lone senator could stymie that goal.

The chairman of the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., said he spoke for more than 30 minutes with the centrist Arizona senator, whose closely held views are a mystery to her colleagues.

“I said, Kyrsten, you and I both know this has got to pass. She said: ‘I couldn’t agree more,’” Neal told reporters at the Capitol.

Sinema’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Under existing law passed in 2017, the corporate tax rate is 21%. Democrats had proposed raising it to 26.5% for companies earning more than $5 million a year. The top individual income tax rate would go from 37% to 39.6% for those earning more than $400,000, or $450,000 for married couples.

Under the changes being floated the corporate rate would not change. But the revisions would not be all positive for big companies and the wealthy.

The White House is reviving the idea of a minimum corporate tax rate, similar to the 15% rate Biden had proposed this year. That’s even for companies that say they had no taxable income — a frequent target of Biden, who complains they pay “zero” in taxes.

The new tax on the wealthiest individuals would be modeled on legislation from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He has proposed taxing stock gains of people with more than $1 billion in assets — fewer than 1,000 Americans.

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