Dems weigh ditching Medicare expansion and paid leave in eleventh hour of social spending talks

Axing either of the two provisions would infuriate progressives and alienate valuable voting blocs. Yet the party might just have to.

10/24/2021 3:49:00 AM

A plan to expand Medicare with dental, vision and hearing benefits for tens of millions of seniors — and a pitch to guarantee paid family and medical leave to all U.S. workers — is now in danger of getting cut from Biden's social spending package entirely

Axing either of the two provisions would infuriate progressives and alienate valuable voting blocs. Yet the party might just have to.

Link CopiedDemocrats are haggling over whether to drop two of the most popular elements of their social spending bill as negotiations reach the zero hour, according to a half-dozen sources close to the discussions.While high-level talks on the $1 trillion-plus package are ongoing, lawmakers, staffers, advocates and lobbyists said that a plan to expand Medicare with dental, vision and hearing benefits for tens of millions of seniors — as well as a pitch to guarantee paid family and medical leave to all U.S. workers — is now in danger of getting cut from the bill entirely.

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Democratic sources addressed the current status of the talks candidly on condition of anonymity, amid conflicting reports from those involved that speak to the closely guarded and sensitive nature of the back-and-forth as the party pushes for a deal in the next few days. President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders are racing to lock in centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) without alienating other major players, including Medicare-expansion proponent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

One senior Democratic aide said discussions on Medicare and paid leave were “in flux” as negotiations continued through the weekend. The White House and Senate leadership aides, meanwhile, denied that the provisions were on their way out. "This is untrue, on both counts,” said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson.

The threat to these two centerpieces of the bill comes as Democrats push for an agreement on a framework for the broader social spending measure as soon as possible. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have said they want a deal by the end of this week, though Manchin and the White House still don’t see eye to eye on a topline number for the bill; Manchin has consistently said he supports $1.5 trillion.

Paid leave and Medicare expansion may not fit in a package that conforms to Manchin's preferred price tag.On the health care front, the party had originally pushed for scaled-down versions of all its priorities — including temporary expansions of Medicaid, Medicare benefits and Obamacare subsidies — after resistance from centrists in the House and Senate had forced the cutting of more than $1 trillion from the package.

The proposed new Medicare benefits have always been vulnerable, given their $350 billion price tag and awave of lobbyingagainst them from the health care industry. Those lobbying against the Sanders-backed expansion include private insurance companies and dentists whose profits would take a hit if more seniors enrolled in traditional Medicare and didn’t have to buy supplemental private plans to cover their dentures, hearing aids and glasses.

Many Democrats also saw the Medicare benefitsas a threatto the effort to expand Medicaid to millions of uninsured low-income people in conservative states, given that the two provisions were competing for the same limited dollars.In recent weeks, Biden had pitched lawmakers on converting the dental benefit — by far the most expensive and logistically challenging of the three Medicare expansions eyed for the bill — into an $800 annual voucher for care. Progressives, who have fought for decades against conservative efforts to convert Medicare into a voucher program, were

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but acknowledged it could be a way to get aid to seniors sooner, given that the original House legislation would not have rolled out the dental benefit until 2028.Some lawmakers also floated ditching dental and focusing solely on vision and hearing care, while

others argued forjust a few years of all three, confident that the benefits would prove so popular that a future Congress would be forced to extend them.Yet even those scaled-back versions have yet to garner enough support from centrist holdouts in the Senate, bolstering projections that the entire Medicare-expansion plank could get axed entirely.

Sanders insisted to POLITICO on Saturday that the benefits are “not coming out.”“The expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision is one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire bill,” he said. “It’s what the American people want.”

Sanders and other progressives already saw the benefits expansion as a significant concession, given they had originally pushed to lower the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60. Now, they say dropping the expansion entirely risks losing their votes for the broader bill.

“We obviously want vision, dental and hearing to be covered,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) told reporters Friday. “My biggest worry is that we’ve had our set of five priorities and we’ve always said we will support a package that has these five priorities. Once you start taking away some of the priorities, then things get a little dicey.”

As for paid leave, the White House informed lawmakers last weekend that it wanted to drastically pare down those provisions in Democrats' party-line social spending package. Though the administration first proposed 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers funded at $225 billion, the president is now supportive of four weeks of paid leave for lower-income workers funded at $100 billion, five sources familiar with the conversations

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said Friday.That’s nearly one-fifth of what the House approved for paid leave earlier this year: $494 billion. It’s even less thanwhat the Senate has been pushingsince this summer: $300 billion.The benefits, disbursed on an income-based scale, would expire after an estimated three to four years, one source said — a nonstarter for most paid leave advocates, who say that the benefit’s permanence is critical to encouraging employers and states to participate in the program.

“A temporary paid leave program is insufficient,” said Molly Day, executive director of Paid Leave for the United States. “It is imperative that the final bill meets the desperate needs of working families with a permanent federal framework.”The U.S. is the only wealthy nation without a national paid leave policy. Just 23 percent of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave,

according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seventy-seven percent have access to paid sick leave.The White House said Friday morning that it was considering cutting paid leave from the package, one source familiar with the conversations said.Now, paid leave advocates are up in arms over what they see as an unwillingness by the White House to fight hard enough for even the slashed version of a reform that Biden campaigned heavily on, particularly as the U.S. recovers from a public health crisis that disparately affected women.

“It is inconceivable and unconscionable to me that there is any risk for a paid leave being on the chopping block, considering the ongoing pandemic, the women's jobs crisis, the care tsunami, the birth rate issues — all of the combined and overlapping crises deepening racial and gender inequality,” said Dawn Huckelbridge, director of Paid Leave for All. “The fact that something this administration has run on and Congress has championed would not be a priority to me is unbelievable.”

The White House has mostly deferred the blame for the paid leave cutbacks to Manchin, one source familiar with the conversations on the Hill said. Manchin himself has yet to go on record about whether the policy is a priority for him.“I want to know whether [Biden] is putting his weight behind [paid leave] when he’s behind closed doors with Sen. Manchin and others that he’s negotiating with,” said Vicki Shabo, who studies paid leave at New America.

A spokesperson for Manchin did not respond to a request for comment Friday.Burgess Everett contributed to this report.CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report misidentified the state that Rep. Ilhan Omar represents. She is a representative from Minnesota.

Read more: POLITICO »

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SharonCarbine It's a fucking shame that the richest person in West Virginia, the poorest state after Mississippi is blocking programs beneficial to his constituents. Quick before I consider voting third party for the rest of my life, somebody tell me how this is trump's fault Because of two democrats or so called.

Manchin and Sinema are two privileged, rich, white people blocking legislation that will support 330 million Americans. They think their money and power deserves more voice than all the other Democratic Lawmakers and The American Public that voted for them. What is Mr Manchin FOR? He seems to be AGAINST anything that helps the American people.

Then what? What’s going to be left to benefit the American people?! Deals made to continue to fill the pockets of those who care about no one else. Sickening! US owes $29T Fed Tax Rev UP 18% y/y to $4T COVID Bills last y cost $6T New Dem spending this year-$1.9T of waste Now they want $5.5T - 85K IRS A money for 1.7m illegals this year Any money for making drugs here & not in China? Probably Not - Don't know Bill is published.

Atta boy Manchin. Strip medicare away. That is why more and more of us are moving to 'self employed' so we can avoid paying for medicare. I am 41 and will never see it anyways. So fuck it. Nice House Boat Because Manchin and that Az senator accept Republican donor money, pharmaceutical money, Republican lobbyists organizations. These groups oppose Medicare/Medicaid expansion, oppose lower prescription prices, oppose everything that benefits the American people.

Seniors, who voted for this turn coar should storm this bums office. He isn't a team player, so remove him from the team.

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The procedural maneuver, long used by Senate minorities to block civil rights legislation, is now poised to stop democracy reforms supported by broad majorities. If the Senate is to be responsive to the popular will, the filibuster must go. BeckyakaGaggy What’s left? Free popcorn at movies?…… So, they don't have the guts or actual will to do what's right for the country? That's going to hurt them.

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Manchin is owned by corporate money. Sen_JoeManchin the majority of Medicare Advantage plans in the US include dental, vision and some hearing. Why don't you think West Virginians don't need this benefit? Your rankings say otherwise think of your constituents for a change. Paid family leave is questionable but the need for dental and vision/hearing benefits for expansion in Medicare needs to happen. Medicare Advantage plans have that in many of the plans, why not Medicare?

Why are seniors always at the bottom of the food chain? Life's lessons have been hard enough by the time we reach an age of need. Can we afford it where’s the money coming from have we worked with all the stakeholders yet?

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Manchin... Are you willing to KICK THE BUTTS of the 'SOCIALISM FOR THE RICH' Industrial Complex? Glad to Hear Manchin won't Ditch us Democrats! We need Financial Discipline. While Kicking the Military Establishments ASS. Yep. Axing either of the two provisions would infuriate progressives and alienate valuable voting blocs. Yet the party might just have to.

Always another time Well we need more than 50 supposedly Democratic senators. If Dems can’t control the house and significantly control the Senate nothing will ever get done. What's left? Truth is I'm not liking American *democratic* process much. Consider my enthusiasm curbed. President Manchin don't want it

And this is how the party of Trump introduces 'freedom' over the good of the people Is there anything left? 🤣

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The democrats should just throw their hands up. Anything Manchin and Sinema vote for will not help the citizens it was meant for. If you don’t support boldly up front, there will be no boldness on the back end. When the GOP is in charge, the wealthy know they will prosper. Democrats continue to make promises they cannot keep.

BOO!! Sad. Many seniors are in desperate need. They choose between food, medications, being able to see or hear, and many live on the edge daily. Once again, abandoning seniors. The ones I know are pissed 😡! So by the time Sen_JoeManchin and SenatorSinema finish with this it'll just be a military spending bill which will get 90 votes and we'll get no actual help. TheDemocrats aren't keeping any promises. Talk a big game when they need votes then deliver nothing.

Our county has health care and family care equivalent to third world Guess they don’t want women back in the workforce. Awwwwww, come on, don't do that!!!!!!! This is not good!

Reconciliation negotiations test new clout of caregiving advocatesThe Covid-19 pandemic thrust the role of caregiving into the national spotlight, with Democrats promising an enormous injection of funding for everything from paid family leave to home care services as they try to overhaul American social policy. Ridiculous! The real problem is probably the need for both parents to work outside the home. We do NOT need the Federal government taking care of our children. Please just stop and think about this ridiculous shit before you say it. How about you ask yourself…is this a sustainable policy? it's issue of every parent, not women's only

DC Democrats ran for years on health care and then do nothing about it when they get the trifecta? Manchin and Sinema are looking to screw over Democrats by gutting the entire reconciliation package. Huge concessions have already been made of incredibly popular programs and they still want to keep cutting. Enough of the bullshit!

PLEASE DON'T! Asking for ALL the folks on Medicare who can't qualify for Mediaid. PaidLeaveforAll PaidLeaveUS paidleaveWV Do something! Manchin is about to single-handedly kill paid leave! The Republican in a Democrat costume enjoys his new found wealth and power. 😩 Very disappointed Free stuff, lots of it..for everyone!

rats Why not pass infrastructure first since it has bipartisan agreement already then do another bill focus solely on healthcare? HouseGOP HouseDemocrats SenateGOP

Fans ❣️ good news It should be $0.0 dollars. We need Infrastructure NOW and a pause on this massive spending bill that will increase costs for every American and be particularly hard on the middle class. We do not need IRS intrusion in our personal back accounts either! POTUS Sen_JoeManchin

democracyloses That pisses me off. The elderly pass on getting dental, vision and hearing care which are basic and needed to have quality of life. Why are they constantly treated like second class citizens? As well it should total over reach by Democratic Party Manchin - why are you not working with out party? Don’t you think they need you? Suck it it up and vote with your party!

No free lunch. It has to be paid for in a highly inflationary environment Because only tax cuts and loopholes for lazy corrupt rich people is all that matters? democracyloses JoeManchinWV Don't let this happen. To see a republican average person happy for this makes me sick … No, tell manchin to go to well!

WTF We should cut the whole bill and raise taxes, we can’t afford the current social programs…

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If Dems lose in 2022 a lot of the blame can be put on Manchin and Sinema West Virginians eligible for Medicare figure that since they have few teeth, what's the point.. - Expanding Medicare w/dental, vision & hearing benefits tens of millions of seniors, are all now in danger of getting cut from Biden's social spending package

Take the Trump billionaire's tax break back. That adds $1.7 trillion for the Build Back Better plan. Trump gave roughly 600 people the same amount that Biden wants to give over 300 million people. Dems chance losing millions of votes in elections if these get cut. Can’t satisfy all parties! This important Medicare provision should have been part of an independent piece of legislation without being mixed up with all kinds of totally extraneous matters.

I'm not apologist for expanding Medicare and other big spending programs. Not by a long shot. But it's comical to read the real reasons this is not going to pass. Sen_JoeManchin is like the Grinch that Stole Christmas I'm still smiling! It's been so beneficiary trying someone new. The step take couldn't be much better. So glad I came across Geoffreypreud

So it is OK to give Healthcare to seniors but not allow them any dignity to have hearing aids, glasses, or dental care 🤔 So, what’s left after you gut Medicare expansion and paid family leave? I think I read free community college has already been axed or pared down. Manchin won’t approve climate stuff. Sinema is a “no” on negotiating Medicare drug prices. This bill has fizzled.

Sure - deaf, dumb & blind aging Baby Boomers beat TaxingTheWealthyAccotdingToIncome to provide co-pay free Medicare4All with UniversalBasicIncome & much more, everyday of the week. The majority of TheDemocrats giveth & the majority of the GOP taketh away. West Virginia is one of the poorest States in the Union. How in God’s name does it elect a Joe Manchin?

Do not ditch the Medicare expansion! Last I checked, my teeth were in my body, my ears were on my body and I need my eyes to see…why the hell are these parts of our body excluded from health care?!?! FuckManchinAndGOP By the time this turd is done we'll get a 1% discount on postage stamps and 50% discount on taxes for those making $500k a year or more

I have never ever seen someone work so hard to destroy the Democrats as much as Manchin. Remember we will fall within. Life as we know it will be gone forever. Greed & Power will destroy US. Keep on cutting the agenda and… Here is my message to democrats.. Keep on cutting your agenda and the reason you got elected… don’t bother running again. I am for one, will never, never vote for you again..

When will Dems ever learn to walk away rather than settle for less? If Dems dumped this entire bill and pulled the anticipated billions of dollars and thousands of jobs from red states, perhaps Repugnantcans would be more interested in cooperating and negotiating in good faith? Literally two of the most popular parts of the bill

Wtf? Because cover those things would be so .. unpopular?!!! So disappointed with this administration.

POTUS SpeakerPelosi SenSchumer Sen_JoeManchin Do NOT pull Medicare dental, vision, and hearing benefits from bill!!!! It’s just money, right? Everything favors the wealthy. TimEdwardsZero4 It's worthless to the average American if these parts are scrubed. So pull the the bill and start over. As the Gambler said. ' You gotta know when to hold them and know when to fold them.'

🤔😠 You need to do more cutting from the rich, like pay your taxes. The Poor and the average man need as much help as possible, this is a fact !!!