President Biden is meeting on Wednesday with centrist Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, who control the fate of his $3.5 trillion social spending bill.
Biden can’t afford to lose a single Democratic vote as he seeks to ram the bill through the evenly divided Senate using special budget reconciliation rules.
Sinema (D-Ariz.) met privately with Biden on Wednesday morning and Manchin (D-WVa.) is expected to arrive to the Oval Office later in the day.
Manchin said this month that Democrats should “hit the pause button” and Sinema’s office recently said that she “will not support a budget reconciliation bill that costs $3.5 trillion.”
All Republicans are expected to oppose the package, which they argue would move the US closer to a European-style welfare state and balloon the national debt.
The bill would hike some corporate and income tax rates to create new initiatives to subsidize parenthood, education and health care, as well as fund new housing and environmental programs.
Biden is seeking a legislative accomplishment in the mold of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, which included Medicare and Medicaid, and FDR’s New Deal, which established Social Security.
The massive $3.5 trillion bill would make community college free and would create universal free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. It would cap childcare expenses for most workers at 7 percent of income and subsidize 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.
It also would extend a temporarily expanded tax credit for parents — from $2,000 per year to $3,000, or $3,600 for children under age 6.
The budget reconciliation bill can pass with a simple majority in the Senate, where both parties hold 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris breaks ties.
But complicating the political maneuvering, House Democrats still need to pass a more narrow $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and left-wing House members have sought to use that bill as leverage to force centrists into backing the larger bill.