KEARNY, N.J., Oct 25 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden held out hope on Monday for an agreement on his major spending plans before he attends a climate summit in Scotland, while the White House said Democratic negotiators were closing in on a deal.
"Let's get this done. Let's move!" said Biden.
Biden visited New Jersey to sell his "Build Back Better" agenda after talks on Sunday with moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote is critical to the package, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a fellow Democrat.
With negotiators zeroing in on a tax on billionaires to pay for the legislation, Biden used a speech in Kearny, New Jersey, to criticize past Republican plans that largely benefited the wealthy, and the economic theory that if people at the top did well, everyone would benefit. "I'm tired of 'trickle-down,'" said Biden.
Whatever the final price tag ends up being, the legislation will be paid for, Biden said.
"You hear these numbers, $3.5 trillion, $1.7 trillion - we pay for it all. It doesn’t increase the deficit one single cent. So let’s get to work," he said.
Democrats are seeking to coalesce around two key pieces of legislation - an up-to-$2 trillion social spending and climate change package and a $1 trillion infrastructure bill - to make good on Biden's campaign promises.
A plan for the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to vote on the infrastructure bill this week appeared in doubt, without an agreement on Biden's larger spending package.
We want to have an agreement so that we can go forward," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, when asked about the prospects for an infrastructure vote.
Manchin, one of two Democratic holdouts along with Senator Kyrsten Sinema, told reporters at the Capitol that he believed a deal on a framework for the social spending bill could be reached this week. But he remained opposed to spending more than $1.5 trillion.
Manchin and senior Democrats, including Schumer, failed to reach agreement at a meeting later on Monday. Participants said discussions would continue.
Differences remained on proposals to expand the Medicare government healthcare program for the elderly, to lower prescription drug prices and address climate change. A proposal to impose a methane fee https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/democrats-likely-ditch-us-methane-fee-amid-opposition-sources-2021-10-25 on oil and gas producers was not expected to be included in the final package.
"There are a few issues still out there. But we're working each one of them," Schumer told reporters after the meeting.
Tax on billionaires
Manchin said earlier in the day that he supported the idea of a tax on the nation's roughly 700 billionaires to fund the programs.
"I support basically everyone paying their fair share of taxes," he said. "I’m open to any type of thing that makes people pay that’s not paying now."
Democrats are expected to unveil the tax proposal within the next few days.
The prolonged debate on the spending plans comes as Biden prepares to attend two major summits: a G20 gathering of world leaders in Rome that starts on Saturday and a climate summit in Glasgow, kicking off on Sunday.
Biden expressed desire for a deal before he leaves on Thursday.
"That’s my hope," Biden told reporters as he departed Wilmington in his home state of Delaware en route to neighboring New Jersey.
The White House said Biden was not concerned he might have to leave the country without the legislative work completed, saying he could still work on the issues while on the road. "We believe we're going to get it done and we're making progress every day," White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Biden visited an elementary school in Plainfield, New Jersey, to promote provisions of his plan, and was to deliver a speech later in the Newark area before returning to Washington.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose, Steve Holland, David Morgan, Doina Chiacu and Jarrett Renshaw; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Heather Timmons and Peter Cooney)