WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden told progressive lawmakers Tuesday that the final social spending bill is expected to drop tuition-free community college and curtail the child tax credit program, two sources familiar with the meeting said.
The sources said the popular child tax credit is likely to be extended for an additional year. Many Democrats had pushed the proposals to reduce poverty and remove financial barriers to higher education and vocational training.
Biden and Democratic congressional leaders are working feverishly to reach a deal. But the talks remain fluid as the party works to narrow the bill to a version that can become law.
Another big priority — a sweeping climate measure known as the Clean Energy Performance Program — is also likely to be curtailed in the spending bill. However, congressional sources said Tuesday that while the climate proposals will be scaled back, there will be a focus on clean renewable energy. Two sources familiar with the negotiations also said lawmakers are considering shortening paid leave in the bill, potentially from 12 weeks to four.
Earlier Tuesday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said her members had a “really good, productive meeting” with Biden, who is working on the bill with moderates and progressives.
“I think we all still feel even more optimistic about getting to an agreement on a really transformational bill that will fundamentally lift people up,” she told reporters.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., who was also in the meeting, told reporters that Biden said the only reason a climate program is not in the bill is opposition from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Huffman said one idea is to allow West Virginia to do what it wants while the rest of the country “can move forward.”
The social spending package, which Democrats are trying to pass without Republican support through a procedure known as reconciliation, started at $3.5 trillion. Last month, Biden told House Democrats that the range was likely to be $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion. He told progressives Tuesday night that the range he is working on is $1.75 trillion to $1.9 trillion, three sources familiar with the meeting said.
Sources cautioned, however, that there is no final deal.
Biden had separate meetings Tuesday at the White House with Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., both of whom are at the center of the disagreement over the bill’s price tag and proposals. The administration has been pressing Congress to reach a deal on the social spending package and the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill by the end of the month.
Manchin, who has said he is proceeding with caution on any additional spending, told reporters Monday that he was skeptical that Congress could meet the self-imposed Oct. 31 deadline to pass both bills.
But the White House struck a more optimistic tone.
“After a day of constructive meetings, the president is more confident this evening about the path forward to delivering for the American people on strong, sustained economic growth that benefits everyone,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Tuesday night.
“There was broad agreement that there is urgency in moving forward over the next several days and that the window for finalizing a package is closing,” she said.