Paid family leave, billionaire tax likely cut from spending bill over Manchin opposition

Pressure is mounting on U.S. lawmakers and White House officials, who met again Wednesday, to secure a deal on the president’s Build Back Better agenda. But key sticking points, like how to pay for the massive social spending bill, remain. White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff with the latest on the negotiations.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Pressure is mounting on lawmakers and White House officials, who met again today, as they scramble to secure a deal on the president's Build Back Better agenda. But key sticking points remain, like how to pay for the massive social spending bill.

    For the latest on negotiations, I'm joined by our White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.

    So, hello, Yamiche.

    They are under the gun. Right now, tell us what White House officials and the president are doing to try to reach a deal, and tell us what the latest sticking points are.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Biden and White House officials are scrambling, Judy, scrambling to try to make a deal to try to unit the Democratic Party, so that the president, when he leaves for Europe tomorrow, can have something to talk about to our European allies.

    That being said, there are a lot of meetings going on, and the White House has been saying that they're confident a deal could possibly be reached by tonight or tomorrow, but it's really hard to see that coming together, because the details of the bill are still being worked out.

    White House officials I have been talking to in the last hour say that really developments have been changing hour by hour.

    Now, today, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, she said she was confident that a possibility of a deal could still be reached. I pressed her on why she felt confident, given the fact that the details are still being worked out. Here's what she told me.

  • Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary:

    I think what members of Congress have conveyed to all of you and leaders in Congress, as well as the White House and the president, is that we are very close. That's because we are very close.

    And it does require working through specific details and components that need to be finalized before we have a final agreement.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Now, the key part of what she said there are specific details and components.

    So, in the last hour, we learned, between myself, as well as Lisa Desjardins, our Capitol Hill correspondent, that one big key provision that Democrats wanted in, that progressive Democrats wanted in, is already being seen as likely out of the deal. And that is paid family leave.

    Now, the president, as well as progressives, had been initially pushing for 12 weeks of family paid leave, which is, in some ways, mirroring what happens in other countries. That was then whittled down to four weeks. And now, within the last hour, White House officials, as well as Capitol Hill sources, are telling us that is likely out.

    And it's out because Senator Joe Manchin does not want it in. And what this is really shaping up to be is really a bill that is mirroring what Joe Manchin wants, rather than what progressive Democrats wants.

    Another thing to really look out for in terms of what's being worked out is how to pay for all of this. Now, there was this billionaire tax that had been floated by Senate Democrats. And, today, President Biden, through his White House press secretary, came out and said he was in support of the billionaire tax.

    But, again, Senator Manchin came out and said that he was critical of this tax. He said that he did not want to be targeting people. So, again, it seems as though the billionaire tax is dead on arrival. The ink isn't even dry on that sort of provision, but it's already gone. And it's, again, because of Senator Manchin of West Virginia.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, we have been reporting that President Biden was very much hoping to get this done before he leaves tomorrow for the global climate summit in Europe. How concerned is he that he may leave without a deal?

    And what do the chances look like that there could be something before tomorrow?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, White House officials have been very candid about the idea that President Biden absolutely wants a deal before he gets on a plane to go to Europe. And he's going to be meeting with the pope. He's going to be meeting with a number of European allies at the G20.

    He's also going to be going to a climate change conference. At all of those meetings, he wants to be able to say, here's what Democrats can get done. Here's what Democrats are doing on climate change, on paid family leave, on all of these different provisions, even though, as I said, paid family leave, it's likely out.

    But it's really, really unclear whether or not he's going to get his wish. He really wants a victory here. The White House is still insisting that there's been a lot of progress that they think could happen.

    Another thing to know is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she wrote a letter to lawmakers today saying that tomorrow the House Rules Committee is going to hold a hearing on what she's calling the Build Back Better Act. So that is Nancy Pelosi really, in some ways, trying to telegraph the urgency that lawmakers want to move here with.

    And there's reporting that she's telling committee chairs that they want — that she wants to see a text of the bill by tomorrow's Rules healing. Again, it's very up in the air whether or not that's going to happen. Progressives are saying that they want to see a text of the legislation, the reconciliation legislation, before they vote on the bipartisan bill.

    So, really, when the president walks out tomorrow at the White House, it's anyone's guess whether or not he's going to be able to say, yes, we have a deal, or, no, we don't. Tonight, the president was — there was talk that he might go to Capitol Hill, but the White House called what we call a lid. And that means that we're not going to see the president on camera, and we're not going to see the president go to Capitol Hill tonight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many moving parts, and the drama continues.

    Yamiche Alcindor watching it at the White House.

    Thank you, Yamiche.

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