The United States President, Joe Biden, has toned down from pledged tax increases to fund planned infrastructure and social spending, and also said he was open to reforming Senate voting rights by “fundamentally altering” its filibuster custom.
Biden also said that he was close to striking a deal to pass major spending measures after weeks of intraparty bickering among his fellow Democrats.
Speaking during a wide-ranging CNN town hall in Baltimore, the president said that raising corporate tax rates, one of his most oft-cited promises, was unlikely to be part of the legislation, adding that a separate minimum corporate tax proposal could fund the social programs that are at the heart of his domestic agenda.
When asked about voting rights, Biden expressed support for changing the Senate filibuster tradition, which requires 60 of 100 U.S. senators to agree on most legislation.
According to him, the hurdle has left the Democratic party powerless on key social issues given their narrow majority. It “remains to be seen” whether he planned to do away with the filibuster altogether.
Taxes were a central issue in Biden’s social spending plan, which is the subject of pitched debate on Capitol Hill and in the White House as negotiators look for the sweet spot between progressives wanting an array of new programs and moderates worried about the cost.
The tax compromise could help sell the plan to Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who has expressed concern about Biden’s plan to raise corporate taxes after the Trump administration slashed them from 35% to 21% in 2017.
Sinema and Senator Joe Manchin, both moderate Democrats, have been pushing for a smaller package and have opposed some elements of the bill.
Negotiations now center around four or five issues, Biden said. He later said that a clean energy performance plan has not been dropped, adding that Sinema is “very supportive” of his environmental agenda.
Biden struck a confident note on his $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal and a separate, social spending plan expected to cost under $2 trillion.
When asked whether Democrats were close to a deal, Biden said: “I think so.” Later, he added: “If we can’t eventually unite this country, we’re in deep trouble… I do think I’ll get a deal.”