'Starting from scratch'? Which parts of Biden's social spending plan can survive, which will get scrapped

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WASHINGTON – Top Democrats aretrying to plot a way forward Thursday on President Joe Biden's sweeping climate and social policy spending bill after he outlined a new strategy to pass the stalled legislation.

Biden said during his Wednesday news conference that Democrats could pass "big chunks" of his roughly $1.75 trillion Build Back Better this year by focusing on a few key policies.

"I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now and come back and fight for the rest later," he conceded during a marathon press conference at the White House Wednesday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president wants to focus now on getting one "big chunk" passed – as opposed to slicing up the package into individual bills. That would allow Democrats to bypass a Republican filibuster through budget rules.

Either way, it would require the White House and Democrats to jettison some cherished proposals.

The package now includes a bevy of popular items, including health care subsidies, climate change initiatives, prekindergarten expansion, subsidized child care and national paid family leave.

"We need to get as much as we can across the finish line," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said after the news conference.

"And that means it takes every vote," she said. "We're not going to get one damn vote from the Republicans for childcare, for reducing the cost of prescription drugs, or for making billionaire corporations pay their taxes. So we got to shoulder this by ourselves as Democrats."

President Joe Biden gives first speech of 2022
President Joe Biden gives first speech of 2022

Here are the potential winners and losers as Democrats map out their next move – along with the possible political and legislative hurdles involved in Biden's new approach.

More: Biden just threw out his bipartisan playbook. Will blaming Republicans help him reset his presidency?

Out: Child tax credit extension

Democrats had hoped to extend the child tax credit, initially passed last year as part of the COVID-19 relief package, as part of the Build Back Better package. It expired at the end of 2021 after negotiations on the broader measure stalled. Many Democrats in Congress view is as a key priority, and some experts estimate it could reduce childhood poverty by 40% if fully implemented.

The policy reached 61.2 million children in December, keeping 3.7 million children out poverty during that month, according to a recent study by the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Va., cited the child tax credit expansion as one of his main objections to the bill. He says there should be a work requirement for families receiving the payment.

Manchin's opposition to the Build Back Better proposal, which he outlined in December, doomed its chances.

Biden acknowledged Wednesday that it might have to be sacrificed, even as he noted it was a campaign promise.

But Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he doesn't think the White House is throwing in the towel on that major Democratic priority.

"I think it's yet to be clarified. I think that the child credit is very popular in the Democratic caucus," Neal, D-Mass., said Thursday, adding that there's room for negotiation with Manchin on how to keep the policy in the package.

More: Biden's new Build Back Better strategy: 5 takeaways from his long (and feisty) press conference

More: What does Biden's press conference tell us about the future of child tax credit payments?

Out: Tuition-free community college

Biden also said that tuition-free community college, another campaign pledge, would probably have to be scrapped.

"They are massive things that I've run on and I care a great deal about," he said Wednesday, adding that he would keep fighting for those proposals.

This provision, which carries a price tag of $109 billion, was already in jeopardy after Manchin signaled his opposition last fall.

"Mr. Manchin and one other person has indicated they will not support free community college," Biden said at a town hall in October. He vowed then to look at other options.

In: Climate and clean energy provisions

Biden said Wednesday it was clear from his conversations with Democrats that the party could muster enough support for the climate portion of his spending bill.

The bill includes about $550 billion in spending to transition the U.S. to clean sources of energy – a central element of Biden's plan to combat climate change and fulfill his pledge to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

The measure also includes $320 billion to expand tax credits over the next decade for utility and residential clean energy, clean passenger and commercial vehicles, and clean energy manufacturing. And it includes incentives for Americans to buy electric vehicles, which would help de-carbonize the single largest sector of the economy contributing to global warming.

Other funding would go to programs to mitigate extreme weather events and a Civilian Climate Corps designed to deploy a force of young workers to help communities address the threat of climate change.

Manchin, a coal-state lawmaker whose support is key to passage, signaled earlier this month he could back some of the climate provisions..

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass, who sits on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Biden's climate change and clean energy initiatives have "largely been worked on and financed."

In a statement after Biden's news conference, Markey said Democrats should start with those and add in any other provisions that can meet a 50-vote threshold. The Senate is divided 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast tie-breaking votes.

No matter what provisions are included in a pared-down version of Biden's bill, the measure still faces significant political and legislative hurdles.

“We'll just be starting from scratch,” Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill after Biden's news conference.

More: COP26: American climate credibility in question at UN summit with Biden's agenda in flux

In: Early childhood education

The economic package includes $109 billion to pay for free, universal pre-school for three- and four-year-olds. The money is projected to benefit as many as 6 million children and will flow to already established programs, including Head Start.

Biden pointed to Manchin's support for the bill's early education proposals and said he believed there's "strong support" for the mechanisms Democrats have proposed to pay for that provision. .

The president also noted the broad popularity among Americans to expand education funding.

"I'm not asking for castles in the sky," he said. "I'm asking for practical things the American people have been asking for for a long time ... And I think we can get it done."

More: What's in the House-passed Build Back Better bill? Paid leave, universal pre-K and more

In: Lowering prescription drug prices

One provision in the Build Back Better package would allow the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices offered through Medicare and establish protections against from price-gouging.

The proposal would also cap cost-sharing for insulin at $35 per month and mandate pharmacies to become more transparent about drug prices and other associated costs in private health plans.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said there is support in the Senate to include the provision in a trimmed down bill.

"I'm taking the heart what (Manchin) has said," Wyden told USA TODAY Thursday. "He wants to deal with inflation. Our prescription drug effort is focused on cost containment, which is one real antidote to inflation."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden will cut Build Back Better bill. What stays in, what gets dumped

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