(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said he doesn’t think there are enough Democratic votes to raise tax rates in a deal on his economic agenda, but that he believes he’ll reach an agreement on the overall legislative package.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to get the vote,” he said in response to a question about individual and corporate rates at a CNN town hall on Thursday. “Look, when you’re in the United States Senate and you’re president of the United States and you have 50 Democrats, everyone is the president.”
A White House official said Biden was referring only to corporate tax rate increases, not other potential provisions to raise federal revenue, including other tax proposals.
Biden also acknowledged that two provisions of the large social-spending bill he calls “Build Back Better” had been curtailed. An initiative to provide paid family leave would be slashed to just four weeks from 12, he said, and a proposal to make community college free would be eliminated.
He said he would push for increasing Pell grants for lower-income college students instead.
The president said he believes Democrats will reach agreement on the package, while acknowledging that many Americans don’t understand the details of the legislation -- a hurdle as he tries to sell it to the country.
“There’s a lot that people don’t understand, and by the way, all of it’s paid for,” he said. “I do think I’ll get a deal.”
Biden said he had resisted demands by one key centrist senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to include work requirements for a measure extending an expanded child tax credit.
“No,” he said. “Here’s the deal, all these people are working anyway.”
The president spent much of this week meeting with different factions of congressional Democrats in order to try to strike a deal on the two bills that make up his overall economic agenda -- a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure plan already passed by the Senate, and a larger package of programs on education, health, childcare and climate change that would also raise some taxes.
He hosted separate group sessions with moderate and progressive members on Tuesday and met one-on-one with Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who are withholding their support for the social-spending and tax-increase legislation the House drafted.
Biden promoted the potential benefits of the legislation during a trip to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Wednesday and again made the case for it in a speech on racial justice earlier Thursday.
Biden told lawmakers he needs a legislative victory before he departs for the Group of 20 leaders summit in Rome and the United Nations climate summit in Scotland, to show world leaders that American democracy can still deliver.
On another subject, Biden acknowledged that the U.S. has “a significant supply-chain problem” and said he would consider deploying the National Guard to drive trucks in order to more quickly get goods out of ports “if we can’t increase the number of truckers, which we’re in the process of doing.”
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