The core unresolved issues holding up Biden’s social spending bills

A divided Democratic party continued to strive to reach agreement Monday, in what's shaping up to be a make-or-break week for President Joe Biden's term. Moderates and progressives remain at odds as they try to work out the price tag for a plan to overhaul a massive spending bill. Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to lay out what's at stake.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A divided Democratic Party continued to strive to reach agreement today in what's shaping up to be a make-or-break week for Biden's presidency.

    Moderates and progressives remain at odds as they try to work out the price tag for a plan to overhaul a massive spending bill.

    Our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins, is here with us again to lay out what's at stake.

    So, hello again, Lisa. Here we go, another week with this. There are still Democrats out there saying they want a vote this week. Where does everything stand right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It was a good weekend for Democrats trying to reach a deal.

    There was a meeting in Delaware with President Biden between him and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a pivotal senator, as well as Senator Schumer, the Democratic leader.And everyone says that, actually, they did make real progress.

    But let's go through where we are at this exact moment. First of all, I want to talk to people about that there is some agreement on new tax ideas. That is absolutely key in terms of how you pay for the bill. There is also a question, though, still about the total size of the bill.

    Today, Senator Manchin said he still wants $1.5 trillion. Others say $1.9 trillion. That's a lot of money in that difference. And we now know we're about down to three or four issues, according to Leader Schumer.

    Now, despite all of that, here's how Senator Manchin said he feels today in talks with, among others, our House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV):

    I trust Speaker Pelosi. And she will make the right decision there, I'm sure.

    But we're all working in good faith. I have been talking to everybody, as you know. And I think that we have got a good understanding of each other now, better than we have ever had.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's positive for Democrats.

    Now, I think where we are, Judy, is more likely to get some kind of outline this week than a vote.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so what is known about these last unresolved issues here?

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    Well, let's talk about them. There's a few. Number one at the list over the weekend, family leave is still on the board. That's an important priority for many Democrats. It's unclear how large it will be or how small that could be, how many weeks of leave could be on the table.

    Medicaid, expansion in the states. I believe it's a dozen states right now that don't have the Medicaid expansion. That's the program for largely the poor. Medicare, the health care program for older Americans largely, that expansion also is a big remaining issue, especially important, as you have spoken to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who would like dental and vision care.

    Right now, it looks like that might not make it, but that's still under discussion, as is prescription drug negotiations. There's a lot of issues that have been resolved. These are four big ones that are not there yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes, they are big ones.

    But let's go back to what you were saying about taxes. What do we know about what they are looking at in terms of raising taxes?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    A big issue has been Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who has said she opposes raising tax rates on individuals or corporations.

    So here are some ideas floating around right now, not all the way agreed to, but they're talking about these three things, a minimum tax for large corporations that would be on their books, the income that they report on their financial books. Billionaires, they're talking about a tax on the gains in their stock portfolio. That's not something they put on their income tax form right now, but it is an asset gain that they get, and they're talking about taxing billionaires based on whether their stocks and tradable assets go up.

    And that would be limited to those who have a billion in assets or $100 million income in multiple years, so really a small group of Americans that would spend — that that would be targeted on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But a lot of money, potentially, involved here.

  • Lisa Desjardins:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, what do the next few days look like?

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    So, here we are today. We're sitting at Monday looking at this long week. Now, what comes up next in this week? If we look at this graphic quickly, after today, the next thing to watch is on Thursday, when President Biden bees for G20 and climate conference overseas.

    Then, on Monday next week, Sunday and Monday, that conference begins. That's when Democrats want to have this kind of climate portion locked in. Another big date will be next Tuesday. That's the Virginia gubernatorial election. Many Democrats believe whether this package progresses or not will affect that election.

    We will see.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many people watching that election for so many reasons.

  • Lisa Desjardins:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    This is one of the important ones.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's correct.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, watching all of it, thank you very much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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