“The signs are that he is increasingly interested,” said David Gergen, a political commentator and former White House communications director who served under various administrations. “His interest intensifies when he sees Biden in trouble.”
When Biden, for example, received backlash for his decision to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan, prompting a swift Taliban takeover, Trump “was really chomping at the bit,” Gergen said. “According to various reports, he had to be talked out of it.”
Three sources with direct knowledge of his plans told the Washington Post that the former president came close to announcing a 2024 run in August at the height of the chaos in Afghanistan. Advisors stepped in and convinced him not to due to a fear that his announcement would derail the Republicans’ attempt to take back Congress in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections.
“And now with Biden’s approval rating sinking down into the low 40s and the economy still not straightening out and the pandemic still not over, that just makes Trump very very hungry,” Gergen continued. “I think it’s going to take something hugely unexpected or a dramatic change in his health or a prison sentence to stop him.”
Republican voters show a strong support for Trump as a potential presidential candidate on the ballot for 2024. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that nearly 80% of Republicans surveyed want to see him run in the 2024 presidential race.
Biden has been steadily losing support since entering office, and his approval rating now hovers at around 43%. His approval rating has been falling because of several factors like the withdrawal from Afghanistan, a stalled infrastructure bill, and other policy issues.
Biden conceded a key part of the Trump tax law is probably here to stay due to a centrist holdout.
“She says she will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side and/or on wealthy people, period,” Biden said of Sinema.
The possible survival of Trump’s tax cuts underscores the knotty maneuvering Democrats are undergoing to pass their safety net bill.
President Joe Biden conceded on Thursday evening that a key part of his predecessor’s signature tax law is probably here to stay due to opposition from a centrist holdout.
During a CNN town hall, the president offered a candid assessment of the political haggling underway on his $3.5 trillion social spending plan. Swaths of the legislation are on the chopping block due to demands from Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to restrain the price tag and its reach.
Biden said that Sinema had specifically told him she was opposed to raising the corporate tax rate above 21%, the level President Donald Trump locked in with the 2017 tax cuts.
“She says she will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side and/or on wealthy people, period,” Biden said. “And so that’s where it sort of breaks down.”
Sinema’s opposition to undoing swaths of the Trump tax law deals a major blow to Democratic efforts to fund their safety net expansion with taxes on the richest Americans and large firms. Biden had campaigned on rolling it back, calling it a giveaway to the wealthy and a burden on the national debt. Much of it could endure through the first Democratic trifecta in a decade.
“Boy, oh boy, that would be a great irony – if a Democratic president, House and Senate embraced the 2017 tax cuts,” Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia told Insider on Thursday.
Democrats are eyeing alternatives that could hit the richest Americans even harder to fund their sweeping ambitions, including a new tax on stock buybacks and others specifically targeted at billionaire wealth. “As Democrats, we think it’s time for billionaires and giant corporations to pay their fair share,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told Insider on Thursday, adding there are “different ways” to fulfill their goals.
Asked if she was surprised that the Trump tax law could remain in place once Democrats approve their social spending bill, Warren told Insider: “Yes. The Trump tax law is a very bad idea. We should get rid of it.”
Yet the possibility that chunks of the Trump tax law remains in place underscores the knotty political maneuvering that Democrats are undergoing to turn Biden’s economic bills into law with razor-thin majorities. Every Senate Democrat must be onboard along with nearly every House Democrat for the package to clear the reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority.
At the town hall, Biden recognized the outsized sway that figures like Manchin and Sinema have over his domestic agenda, given they have the ability to sink the nascent legislation if they opposed it.
“Look, in the United States Senate, when you have 50 Democrats, everyone is the president,” Biden said.
Biden told a CNN town hall on Thursday the US would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack.
The White House later clarified that the US policy of “strategic ambiguity” had not changed.
China’s recent military activity has raised fears it will try to seize the island, which it considers its own.
The White House clarified President Joe Biden’s comments after he said the US would defend Taiwan if it was attacked by China, in what appeared to be a significant shift in US foreign policy.
When asked by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper at a Thursday town hall event whether Biden would defend Taiwan if China attacked it, the president replied: “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.”
Aggressive Chinese rhetoric and military activity in recent months have raised tensions in Taiwan, which has for decades governed itself as an independent state and which China claims as part of its sovereign territory.
The comments appeared to be a departure from the policy of “strategic ambiguity” that the US has long adopted towards Taiwan. The policy means that the US has deliberately not indicated whether it would help Taiwan if it was invaded.
A White House spokesperson subsequently said the president’s comments had not signaled a shift in policy.
In a Friday statement issued through the Global Times, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: “No one should underestimate the strong resolve, determination, and capability of the Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Reuters reported on Friday that White House officials were preparing for a virtual meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at an unspecified time.
President Joe Biden addressed the Senate filibuster rules at a CNN town hall Thursday.
He said he was open to plans to removing the filibuster to help Dems pass voting rights legislation.
The filibuster has been used as blocking tactic by Senate minority parties in recent years.
President Joe Biden told a Thursday CNN town hall event that he was open to ending the Senate filibuster in order to help Democrats overcome Republican opposition and advance new voting rights bills.
Biden was asked by the host Anderson Cooper: “When it comes to voting rights, just so I’m clear though, you would entertain the notion of doing away with the filibuster on that one issue, is that correct?”
Another bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, is to be voted on next week and is also likely to face a Republican filibuster. It was not clear which voting rights legislation Biden would support removing the filibuster to pass.
Biden also expressed support for a “talking filibuster,” under which senators talk continually on the Senate floor in order to stall a bill.
“We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster,” Biden said, adding that it “remains to be seen exactly what that means in terms of fundamentally – on whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up.”
Biden again raised the issue of the debt ceiling standoff on Thursday, saying it could provoke some opponents of filibuster reform to shift their positions. Issues such as voting rights and the US debt were too important to be subject to blocking tactics by the minority party, he said.
“I think you’re going to see – if it gets pulled again – you’ll see an awful lot of Democrats being ready to say, ‘Not me. I’m not doing that again. We’re going to end the filibuster.’ But it still is difficult to end the filibuster beyond that,” Biden said.
Only senators can change the rules of the upper chamber, and getting rid of the filibuster rule – even temporarily – would require the support of all 50 Democratic senators.
Biden pushed back against Manchin’s efforts to restrict eligibility for the child tax credit on Thursday.
The president responded “no” when asked if he backed work requirements.
Biden pitched a one-year extension of the CTC, which was slammed by Democrats for being too short.
President Joe Biden said at a CNN town hall on Thursday evening that he didn’t believe people needed to work to receive the monthly child tax credit, pushing back against a key Democrat’s effort to restrict eligibility for the cash benefit.
The president flatly responded “no” when asked if he backed a work requirement for the bulked-up child tax credit.
Biden’s comments are pushing back against Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a centrist who holds outsized influence over the future of his economic legislation in the 50-50 Senate. Manchin has pushed a work requirement for the child tax credit over the opposition of most Congressional Democrats.
Instead, they favor ensuring families who pay little or no taxes are able to get up to $300 in monthly checks depending on the child’s age. The vast majority of families earning below $150,000 are eligible for the one-year expansion, set to expire next year.
The child tax credit makes up only one part of the sprawling Democratic social spending plan. Democrats also aim to include at least four weeks of paid leave, federal subsidies so people can purchase coverage from the Affordable Care Act exchanges, and more.
Biden pitched a one-year extension of the child tax credit during meetings with Democrats at the White House on Tuesday. It triggered a backlash from senior Democrats like Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Massachusetts, House Appropriations Committee chair and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who heads the Senate Finance Committee.
“I’m gonna get longer than that,” Wyden told Insider on Tuesday. Other Democrats involved in the child tax credit negotiations argue a longer extension is necessary so it becomes a benefit program that’s impossible to dislodge like Social Security.
“I think that we’ve got to try harder,” Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, an architect of the measure, told Insider on Thursday morning.
During a CNN Town Hall Thursday, President Biden said that expanded medicare coverage was ‘a reach.’
He said chances of the provision making the bill were slim because of Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition.
The touted expansion would cover dental, vision, and hearing benefits for Medicare recipients.
During a CNN Town Hall on Thursday, President Joe Biden said it’s “a reach” to expand Medicare so it covers hearing aid, dental, and vision coverage in the Democratic social spending bill due to Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition to the provisions.
“It’s a reach, because of Mr. Manchin,” Biden said in response to whether he expected the expanded Medicare coverage to be included in the final bill. “Joe’s not a bad guy, we’re friends.”
In their social spending package, Senate Democrats have sought to expand Medicare so it covers dental, vision, and hearing benefits. Yet Biden’s remarks concede Democrats hit a roadblock due to Manchin. The president said he believes Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is opposed to the overall expansion as well.
Biden added that Democrats were nearing a deal to include an $800 voucher so many seniors can access dental coverage and some hearing benefits. But there’s no agreement yet within the party on what to do about vision.
During the town hall, Biden also said that he did not support a work requirement for the expanded child tax credit included in the bill, which Manchin has pushed over the objections of the vast majority of Democrats.
Earlier on Thursday, Manchin told reporters that he doesn’t think Democrats will reach a deal on a social-spending bill by the end of the week. “This is not gonna happen anytime soon, guys,” Manchin said.
Over the last few months, the Democrats’ initial $3.5 trillion legislation has been diluted after stiff resistance from moderate Sens. Manchin and Krysten Sinema.
Once an agreement is reached, Democrats plan to push the final bill through the reconciliation process, which requires a simple majority vote.
Medicare expansion has been a chief priority of Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee. He has called it a red-line in the negotiations. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has also supported the measure.
Democrats are scrounging for new tax proposals given Sinema’s resistance to rolling back the tax cuts Trump instituted in 2017.
It may cause them to consider aggressive new taxes on billionaires, some of which haven’t been done before.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia told Insider it’d be a “great irony” if Democrats failed to roll back the Trump tax cuts.
Congressional Democrats are in a tough bind.
They’re scrambling to wrap up negotiations on President Joe Biden’s economic spending plans before the end of the month, a feat that appears more unlikely with every passing day. Internal divides are bogging down Senate Democrats over the size and scope of their social safety net bill to expand access to education, healthcare, and confront the climate crisis.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are insistent that the price tag of the $3.5 trillion social spending plan must come down to clinch their support. Manchin said Thursday he didn’t believed a deal would be reached “anytime soon.”
Another major part of the hold-up is Sinema’s resistance to hiking tax rates on richer individuals and large corporations, a move that all but slams the brakes on Democrats’ plans to roll back President Donald Trump’s signature tax law. Democrats may be forced to abandon a central plank of their economic agenda to earn her vote in a 50-50 Senate.
Sinema’s opposition to lifting tax rates cuts at least $700 billion in revenue meant to cover priorities like an extension of the bulked-up child tax credit, Medicare and Medicaid expansion, paid leave and more. To salvage their sweeping ambitions, Democrats are floating alternatives that would hit the richest Americans even harder with a slew of new tax increases on capital gains, along with stock buybacks among others.
Howard Gleckman, a tax expert at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, described the dilemma facing Democrats as “an odd thing.”
“I don’t know what’s in Kyrsten Sinema’s head,” he said in an interview. “In some ways, the other proposals are a much more direct tax increase on high-income people. So if what she’s trying to do is protect the wealth of very rich people, pushing Democrats to a mark-to-market structure or even a wealth tax actually makes that harder, not easier.”
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, argued that Democrats have plenty of alternatives to choose from, including one of his own to tax capital gains. “We are ready to go now,” he told Insider.
How Democrats may sidestep Sinema and embrace new taxes on wealth
Senate Democrats can’t spare any votes in their endeavor to turn Biden’s economic plans into law over united Republican opposition. The tricky political maneuvering required to get Sinema’s vote is already infuriating the party’s progressive wing who want the package to transform the economy and alleviate inequality.
“It would be outrageous to not include something that so desperately needs to be done, that’s the most popular part of this package, that all of us ran on,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters on Thursday.
But Sinema’s position is leading Democrats to dust off older ideas in search for back-ups. Chief among them is a “Billionaire’s Income Tax” that’s being authored by Wyden, which targets unrealized gains on assets. Importantly, it means assets that haven’t been sold – but whose value still went up – would be taxed annually. It’s based on an earlier proposal from 2019 and an updated version still hasn’t been released.
For the wealthy, assets are a much more sizable part of income compared to the typical worker. If you work a salaried job, you probably pay an income tax. Meanwhile, if you’re a billionaire holding profitable stocks, you’re paying a preferential tax rate if you decide to sell and won’t pay a dime until you do.
An analysis from the left-leaning Americans for Tax Fairness finds that Wyden’s proposal would apply to just .0005% of households – amounting to the wealthiest slice of Americans. Importantly, Wyden’s proposal has Biden’s blessing.
Gleckman projected the plan could raise between $500 billion to a $1 trillion in revenue depending on details like which tradable assets are taxed. But he said setting up an apparatus to carry it out is easier said than done since it’s never been implemented on a broad scale in the US.
“You would have to create a completely new structure to do this,” he said. “It’s time-consuming, and it’s complicated.”
Already, at least one Democratic senator says he’s uneasy about implementing a largely untested idea to pay for their spending plans. “I think anytime you get into stuff that’s not proven in the tax code it becomes a bit dangerous,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana told the Wall Street Journal’s Andy Duehren.
Other measures to make up for lost revenue include stepping up IRS enforcement and an international tax overhaul, a Senate Democratic aide familiar with discussions recently told Insider. They’re also eyeing imposing taxes on companies that buy their own stock to jack up its value, benefiting shareholders.
The ‘great irony’ that Trump’s tax cuts may be here to stay
Democrats in both the House and Senate are betting that Sinema will ultimately budge in her ongoing negotiations with the White House. The Arizona Democrat has perplexed many in her party, given her 2017 vote against the Trump tax law.
“My hope is that person will change her mind,” Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, said, referring to Sinema. “Why should billionaires pay less in taxes than you or me?”
“I’m not giving up the possibility of some rate increases,” Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told Insider, adding that a deal on the price tag would help settle much of the disputes among Democrats around tax increases.
But the possibility exists that swaths of the Trump tax law – which slashed the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35% and many experts say accelerated inequality – will remain untouched when all is said and done with the safety net bill, which Democrats are trying to approve relying on their first majority in over a decade.
“Boy, oh boy, that would be a great irony – if a Democratic president, House and Senate embraced the 2017 tax cuts,” Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia told Insider.
Sinema’s opposition to rolling back swaths of the Trump tax law is prompting a scramble for alternatives among Democrats.
Other options include stepping up IRS enforcement and tightening international tax rules.
Democrats have little room for error and its unclear which tax proposals could get Sinema’s support.
Opposition from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to lifting tax rates on individuals and large businesses is derailing Democrats’ plans to roll back President Donald Trump’s tax law, setting off a last-ditch effort to seek alternatives that can lock in the centrist Democrat’s support.
A Senate Democratic aide familiar with the discussions told Insider that other options were still on the table, including stepping up IRS tax enforcement and tightening international tax rules. The Wall Street Journal first reported the story.
Democrats argued for years that the law provided outsized financial benefits for the rich and helped accelerate inequality. Sinema’s opposition to both individual and corporate rate increases strips over $700 billion in new revenue for their nascent safety net plan.
President Joe Biden initially sought to raise the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and lift the top individual income tax rate to 39.6% from 37%. For his part, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another key vote in the 50-50 Senate, has signaled he’d accept a 25% corporate tax rate.
Still, that leaves the party with few alternatives that can garner support from every Senate Democrat as they try to mold Biden’s economic plans into law over staunch Republican opposition. They have three votes to spare in the House and none in the Senate.
Some Democrats are starting to express frustration with the tumultuous negotiations on the safety net bill. “We didn’t have a new tax plan every half hour,” Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, told reporters on Wednesday. “We laid out a plan that was fully paid for, and we set our priorities.”
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, has said for weeks that Democrats can draw from an extensive menu of revenue-raisers to pay for their ambitious plans to expand healthcare and education, as well as mitigating the climate emergency.
Wyden’s proposals include what he calls a billionaires’ income tax, modeled on an earlier proposal he unveiled in 2019 to tax the accumulated wealth of the richest Americans. The plan hasn’t been released yet and it’s unclear how much revenue it could raise. Other possible alternatives include levies on large firms that issue stock buybacks to shareholders.
Biden floated a one-year extension of the child tax credit at a White House meeting with Democrats on Tuesday.
His suggestion is already causing some senior Democrats in the House and Senate to call it a “big mistake.”
“I’m gonna get longer than that,” Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden told Insider.
President Joe Biden pitched a one-year extension of the bulked-up child tax credit to Democrats on Tuesday, a person familiar with the matter told Insider.
Senior Democrats are disappointed; they expected the program to last much longer.
Biden met with two groups of House and Senate Democrats in an effort to broker a truce between the warring liberal and centrist factions of the party. The feud has grown acrimonious in recent weeks as centrists attempt to slam the brakes on the ambitious size and scope of the party’s $3.5 trillion social spending plan.
The one-year extension would ensure low-income families who pay little or no taxes get the money as well, the person said. But the short extension runs counter to what many Democrats seek in the social spending plan, and they view it as their best opportunity in a generation to strengthen the safety net for families.
Some Democrats are already slamming the briefer extension.
“Nobody talked about Social Security being extended for one year,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told Insider. “I think that the child tax credit is on its way to setting up a new bond between children and families and the government.”
He went on: “I’m gonna get longer than that.”
A spokesperson for Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said the senator believes it is “crucial” for low-income families paying no taxes to tap the benefit.
“He’s going to continue pushing forthat and for an extension of the expanded child tax credit for as long as possible,” the spokesperson said in a statement to Insider.
It also prompted fierce criticism from a top House Democrat. Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, argued it would be a blunder.
“A one year extension is a very big mistake and a missed opportunity for the country,” she told reporters on Wednesday. “I will continue to press for a more enduring framework for children and families.”
Congressional Democrats are starting to make tough calls on what should be jettisoned from their $3.5 trillion social spending plan, which faces major cuts to gain support from Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. The pair hold enormous influence in the 50-50 Senate, given Democrats can’t spare any votes in their endeavor to turn Biden’s economic plans into law in the face of united Republican opposition.
Priorities on the chopping block include tuition-free community college, which some Democrats conceded would probably be dropped on Tuesday. Biden also reportedly set $1.9 trillion as the ceiling for the cost of the social spending bill – sliced nearly in half from the original number.
Some experts are crediting the expanded child tax credit payments with helping cut the number of kids living in poverty already and allowing families to pay the bills and manage everyday expenses like buying groceries. Families with incomes below $150,000 can get up to $300 in monthly checks depending on their kid’s age.
Yet a small but potent band of centrists argue the aid should be restricted to only the poorest families. Manchin reportedly floated a $60,000 income cap for families to qualify for the child tax credit. That triggered criticism from Democrats earlier this week because it would prompt steep cuts to many kids benefiting from government aid.
House Democrats introduced an extension through 2025 at a cost of $556 billion. Shortening its extension allows Democrats to cram more social priorities in their social spending plan, and potentially broaden its ability to clear thin majorities in both the House and Senate.
Other Senate Democrats indicated that the child tax credit renewal was still up for grabs in the talks. “It’s all negotiable,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana told Insider.
“I support making it permanent,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranked Senate Democrat, told Insider on Wednesday.
A massive pipeline between Russia and Germany called Nord Stream 2 is ready to start pumping gas.
The Trump administration vehemently opposed it, but Biden waived sanctions.
There are fears that the pipeline could destabilize Europe. Critics say Biden should’ve done more to stop it.
One year ago, the US was trying hard to kill an $11 billion project to build a gas pipeline that would run from Russia to Germany, even though it was almost complete.
Then-President Donald Trump had loudly opposed Nord Stream 2, fearing it would give Russia greater economic and political leverage over Europe. He imposed sanctions on the project in December 2019 and, a year later, Congress approved another series of harsh sanctions on the company building the pipeline and on Matthias Warnig, its CEO and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Joe Biden seemed just as keen to stop the project when he inherited those sanctions in January, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken promising in March to keep looking for ways to stop it.
But only a few months later, Biden dismayed Nord Stream 2’s numerous opponents when he waived the harshest sanctions and introduced some watered-down measures in their place. In July, the US reached a compromise deal with Germany, meaning the project could go ahead without further sanctions being imposed.
Biden offered two principal reasons in May for waiving the sanctions: German Chancellor Angela Merkel was Nord Stream 2’s loudest champion, and he wanted to repair the US relationship with Europe after four years of Trump; and because the pipeline was pretty much built anyway.
“It’s almost completely finished,” he told reporters. “To go ahead and impose sanctions now, I think is counter-productive in terms of our European relations.”
But plenty of Nord Stream 2’s opponents, both in Washington and in Europe, fervently disagreed with Biden’s suggestion that he couldn’t have stopped the pipeline, saying he handed Putin a massive gift by standing aside.
Sen. Ted Cruz, who led the bipartisan effort to introduce the Nord Stream 2 sanctions last year, said in September: “It is not rocket science that a 90 percent complete pipeline is zero percent complete,” noting that pipeline construction stopped for nearly a year following the 2019 US sanctions.
Germany is Europe’s largest economy, and Biden wants it onside in the trade tussle with China that could help define his legacy.
“Sanctions would still have dealt damage, but the problem is that the political price for this for the Biden administration was much too high,” Gressler said.
“In their calculation, it was something that could have been done but the damage would have been too big.”
The risk to Europe
The question that arises from Biden’s decision to waive sanctions on Nord Stream 2 is whether allowing Putin to exert greater influence over Europe will prove a wise move.
Soaring gas prices this year have already highlighted Europe’s dependence on Russia for natural gas supplies – something Nord Stream 2 operations would likely exacerbate. Russia has previously cut off gas supplies to countries like Ukraine amid disputes.
Another problem for Biden is that the compromise he reached with Germany on Nord Stream 2 was almost entirely on Berlin’s terms, in framing the project as an economic issue rather than a security issue, Gressler said.
Biden’s Democratic colleagues have long opposed the project not principally because it hands Russia an economic advantage over its European neighbors, but because it could cause the US significant foreign-policy problems in future.
Russia currently imports gas through Ukraine, meaning it won’t want to destabilize the country’s infrastructure. But Nord Stream 2 runs under the Baltic Sea and bypasses the country entirely, meaning Russia may no longer feel bound by the same caution.
“If the Russians do not depend on Ukraine as a transit country, they are free to destabilize it by other means,” Gressler said. “All these other means would more or less end up on Washington’s desk.”