Biden Heads to Scranton to Sell a Shrinking Agenda
The president’s trip comes as Democrats circle in on a deal to advance two bills carrying a scaled-back version of his domestic policy priorities,
WASHINGTON — President Biden will travel to his childhood hometown, Scranton, Pa., on Wednesday to press the case for an economic, environmental and social policy agenda that congressional Democrats are whittling down in hopes of securing an agreement to pass it into law this fall.
The visit comes as Mr. Biden conceded that key elements of his proposal would most likely be dropped or substantially pared back, allowing them to fit in a measure much smaller than the initial $3.5 trillion plan that Democrats had sketched out over the summer.
In a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, the president reiterated that the overall price tag would be about $2 trillion and suggested that it could be as low as $1.75 trillion, said two people familiar with the private discussion and disclosed details on condition of anonymity. They also cautioned that the details were still in flux. In recent days, Mr. Biden had proposed spending $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion over 10 years.
During his visit to Scranton, Mr. Biden will give a speech at the Electric City Trolley Museum, where he will reflect on his working-class upbringing and how it influenced his values and the policies he has pursued in office.
Mr. Biden is brokering negotiations between moderate and progressive Democrats over how to scale back his plans for climate change, education, child care, paid leave, home care for older and disabled Americans and a range of efforts to combat poverty, which are all bundled in a bill party leaders hope to pass along party lines in the weeks to come. An agreement on that bill could in turn bring progressives in the House to vote for a separate bill to invest in roads, bridges, broadband, water pipes and other physical infrastructure, which has already cleared the Senate with bipartisan support.
The president and congressional leaders are hoping to finalize a framework for a deal by the end of the week.
Democrats are expected to drop one of Mr. Biden’s favorite campaign promises as part of the scaling back: a plan to offer two years of free community college to every American. They probably will also drop what had been a centerpiece of his climate plan: a clean electricity program intended to help rapidly replace coal- and gas-fired power plants, which is opposed by Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.
In its place, Democrats are in discussions to spend as much as $150 billion on additional tax credits for solar and nuclear power and capturing carbon emissions from fossil fuel-powered plants, along with grants and loans to incentivize emissions reductions in steel, concrete and other industrial uses, in hopes of keeping the United States on track to keep an international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Democrats could also curtail expansion of monthly payments to families with children, potentially extending the expansion for one year while making permanent some benefits for the poorest American families.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said Wednesday that he, Mr. Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California would speak later in the morning about the latest details of the plan.
“Members are in a position where they want to get something done — they understand that you’ve got to get everybody in the tent, because we have very close margins,” Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, told reporters when asked about the smaller spending proposal. “So I think they’ll accommodate that.”
Leaving a private caucus meeting Wednesday morning, some Democrats appeared most concerned about the prospect of limiting the duration of the expanded child tax credit to just one more year. Democrats had hoped to extend the monthly payments through 2024 or 2025.
“I think it’s a big mistake — one year extension is a big mistake,” Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and a champion of the proposal, said Wednesday morning. “And I think it’s not good, not good for the country, what I will do is to continue to pressure for a new framework that’s more enduring for children and for families.”