President Biden detailed a host of sticking points in negotiations with Senators Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) over the proposed reconciliation bill, in a CNN town hall on Thursday evening.
Host Anderson Cooper asked Biden if he knew Sinema’s negotiating positions.
“First of all, she’s smart as a devil, No. 1,” Biden said. While Biden noted that Sinema backed his environmental agenda, he added that she was skeptical of raising corporate taxes.
“Where she’s not supportive, as she says: She will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side and or on wealthy people, period,” the president said. “And so that’s where it sort of breaks down.”
Biden said his administration is searching for other ways to pay for the package without raising those taxes.
Biden also noted that both Sinema and Manchin are opposed to expanding Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing services, so that provision may not make it into the reconciliation bill.
On CNN town hall, Biden says that Medicare benefit expansion is a “reach,” blaming Sen. Manchin. @SenSanders and other progressives have championed expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing. pic.twitter.com/iN6gJyewSr
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) October 22, 2021
“I think it’s a good idea, and it’s not that costly in relative terms, especially if you allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices,” Biden said. “But here’s the thing: Mr. Manchin is, uh, is opposed to that, as is I think Senator Sinema is as well.”
Biden also attempted to smooth over some of the differences with Manchin.
“Joe’s not a bad guy; he’s a friend. And he’s always at the end of the day come around and voted for it,” Biden said.
Earlier in the town hall, Biden confirmed that his original proposal for twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave would be significantly reduced.
“It is down to four weeks,” Biden said. “The reason it’s down to four weeks is I can’t get 12 weeks.”
A proposal for free community college was entirely scrapped from the reconciliation package. Biden said lawmakers are looking into expanded Pell grants for community-college students.
Because the Senate is tied 50-50, Democrats need the support of both Manchin and Sinema to pass the reconciliation package via a simple majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the 51st vote.