House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer aims to strike a deal on President Joe Biden‘s social safety net plan before Monday as Democrats scramble to salvage their economic agenda.
“We’d like to get a framework by the end of – frankly today, but no later than the end of the weekend,” the No. 2 House Democrat told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday.
Top Democrats have held a string of talks in recent days as they try to get centrists and progressives to sign off on a sprawling plan to invest in child care, paid leave, education, health care and climate policy. The party has to resolve disputes — over what to include in the package and how to pay for it — before it can agree to an outline.
Party leaders hoped to pass what they bill as the biggest investment in working families in decades by the end of the month. They view it as complementary to a Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, which House progressives have threatened to block until the chamber can vote on the larger safety-net plan.
While Democrats still have to get past multiple sticking points, party leaders have sounded hopeful about reaching a deal in the coming days. During a CNN town hall Thursday night, Biden said the talks have come down to “four or five” unspecified issues.
“I do think I’ll get a deal,” he said. Asked if he believes Democrats will reach an agreement before he leaves for Europe in a week, Biden said, “Sure.”
The economic plan as first outlined would have invested in child care, paid leave, a Medicare expansion, universal pre-K, free community college, an extension of the enhanced child tax credit and green energy adoption. It would have raised tax rates for corporations and the wealthiest individuals to offset the spending.
Democrats have had to scrap chunks of the bill to cut its price tag from $3.5 trillion to $2 trillion or less. Lawmakers aim to slash costs to appease centrist Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.
As Democrats try to pass the plan with a simple majority in the evenly split Senate, one defection can derail it.
Biden on Thursday confirmed some of the cuts his party will likely make. He said both Manchin and Sinema oppose adding dental, vision and hearing coverage to Medicare — a priority for Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The president said negotiators could consider an $800 voucher for dental costs.
Biden also noted lawmakers will likely remove two free years of community college from the plan.
Democrats will also likely have to scale back their proposal to offer paid family and medical leave to most Americans, Biden said. The president said lawmakers could settle on four weeks of leave instead of 12. Biden and leading Democrats consider the policy a core piece of the package.
Democrats have also searched for new ways to pay for the plan after Sinema signaled she would not support higher taxes rates for corporations and individuals. Lawmakers will consider other options including taxes on stock buybacks, a minimum tax on corporate book income, an overhaul of international taxation and increased tax enforcement, sources told CNBC this week.
The demands to cut spending have left Democrats with tricky choices. They can scrap programs entirely, keep them in place for shorter periods of time or use a combination of both methods to slash the price tag.
“I personally am in the camp of do fewer things and do them well, make sure they work effectively,” Hoyer told CNBC on Friday.
House progressives have pushed to keep as many of the proposed programs as possible but phase them out more quickly.
Bridging the gulf between progressive and centrist priorities has proven daunting for months. At least one of the lawmakers who will determine the plan’s fate considers an imminent deal unrealistic.
Manchin told reporters he does not expect a framework will come together this week despite “good progress” toward a agreement.
“This is not going to happen anytime soon, guys,” he said.
— CNBC’s Ylan Mui contributed to this report