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Nov. 27, 2021

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Deal on Biden’s $2T plan edges closer; Harris is ‘confident’

Negotiations on package expected to continue through weekend

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Photo Gallery

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and Congress’ top Democrats are close to sealing their giant domestic legislation, though an informal deadline appeared to slip by as they worked to scale back the measure and determine how to pay for it.

Negotiations were expected to continue into the weekend, all sides indicating that just a few issues remained unsettled in the sweeping package of social services and climate-change strategies.

Biden met at the White House on Friday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined by video call from New York. The leaders have been working with party moderates and progressives to shrink the once-$3.5 trillion, 10-year package to around $2 trillion in child care, health care and clean-energy programs.

Pelosi said a deal was “very possible.”

She told reporters back at the Capitol that more than 90 percent of the package was agreed to: The climate-change components of the bill “are resolved,” but outstanding questions remained on health care provisions.

Vice President Kamala Harris sounded even more certain. During a visit to New York City, she said tensions often rise over final details but “I am confident, frankly — not only optimistic, but I am confident that we will reach a deal.”

No deal was announced by Friday’s self-imposed deadline to at least agree on a basic outline. Biden wants a deal before he leaves this week for global summits in Europe.

Pelosi hoped the House could start voting as soon as this week, but no schedule was set.

Sticking points appear to include proposed corporate tax hikes to help finance the plan and an effort to lower prescription drug costs that has raised concerns from the pharmaceutical industry. Democrats are in search of a broad compromise between the party’s progressives and moderates on the measure’s price tag, revenue sources and basic components.

At the White House, the president has “rolled up his sleeves and is deep in the details of spreadsheets and numbers,” press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Biden was to spend the weekend at his home in Wilmington, Del.

Psaki compared the work to starting Social Security and other major federal programs decades ago, then building on them in following years.

“Progress here is a historic package that will put in place systems and programs that have never existed in our society before,” she said, noting the effort to expand child care and provide free prekindergarten for all youngsters.

In a Senate that is evenly divided, Biden can’t afford to lose a single vote.

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