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    Biden Administration Plays Down Growth Decline in G.D.P. Report

    The White House dismissed a slump in first-quarter growth that was driven by a quirk in inventories and a jump in imports, emphasizing that Thursday’s report on gross domestic product also pointed to underlying strength in consumer spending.G.D.P. declined 0.4 percent in the first quarter after adjusting for inflation, or 1.4 percent on an annualized basis, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Companies had stockpiled inventories in the fourth quarter and built them more slowly at the start of the year, and imports far outstripped exports as Americans bought goods from abroad, driving the decline.“While last quarter’s growth estimate was affected by technical factors, the United States confronts the challenges of Covid-19 around the world, Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and global inflation from a position of strength,” President Biden said in a statement following the release, referring to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Mr. Biden also noted that “consumer spending, business investment, and residential investment increased at strong rates.”Mr. Biden and Democrats are facing a challenging midterm election year as inflation runs at its fastest pace in four decades, chipping away at household budgets and eroding consumer confidence. At the same time, the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to try to keep rapid price increases from becoming permanent, which could begin to meaningfully cool down the economy just as voters head to the polls.The administration has tried to pin high inflation on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While the war has pushed gas and other commodity prices higher, inflation was high even before Russia’s attack.Republicans have seized on rising prices to blast Mr. Biden’s economic policies. The decline in growth at the start of the year gave them room to ramp up that criticism.“Accelerating inflation, a worker crisis, and the growing risk of a significant recession are the signature economic failures of the Biden administration,” Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, said in a news release on Thursday.Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader, also blamed Democrats for the drop in growth and 40-year high inflation levels.“In 15 months, one-party Democrat rule has squandered America’s recovery and left you paying the price,” Mr. McCarthy wrote on Twitter.The Biden administration’s 2021 economic stimulus, which sent checks to households and provided other relief at a time when the job market was already recovering, has been criticized by economists for helping to stoke excessively strong consumer demand. That probably ramped up inflationary pressures as the economy reopened, some research has suggested.Republicans often seize on that to argue that the burst in inflation is the administration’s fault. But administration officials point out that their policies helped to drive a swift recovery, came at an uncertain moment, and built on a pandemic response started under the Trump administration.In a speech on Thursday, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen defended the scale of the efforts to support the economy. She recalled the dire economic projections in the early days of the pandemic and said that the spending was needed to avert a worst-case scenario, though some economists warned that the final installation in 2021 was too much and too poorly targeted even at the time of its passage.“Throughout 2020, and into 2021, the path of the pandemic, including its severity and the role of future viral strains could not be predicted,” Ms. Yellen said at an event at the Brookings Institution held by the Hamilton Project and Hutchins Center. “Given this uncertainty, the recovery packages sought to protect against tail risk.” More

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    How Biden Is Handling Student Loan Payments Amid Inflation

    The administration is in a tight spot as fast inflation makes households unhappy. Trying to offset price pain can risk stoking demand.President Biden, under fire for rapid inflation and looking for ways to help cushion rising costs for households, extended a moratorium on student debt payments through August. While politically popular with Mr. Biden’s party, the move drew criticism for adding a small measure of oomph to the very inflation the government is trying to tame.America’s robust economic recovery from the deepest pandemic-era lockdowns has left consumers with the power to spend and has fueled fast price increases. Those rising costs are making voters unhappy, jeopardizing Democrats’ chances of retaining control of Congress come November.The moratorium extension stood out as an example of a more general problem confronting the administration: Policies that help households stretch their budgets could soothe voters, but they could also add a little bit of fuel to the inflationary fire at an inopportune moment. And perhaps more critically, analysts said, they risk sending a signal that the administration is not focused on tackling price increases despite the president’s pledge to help bring costs down.Inflation is running at the fastest pace in 40 years and at more than three times the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent goal, as rapid buying collides with constrained supply chains, labor shortages and a limited supply of housing to push prices higher.The administration’s decision to extend the student loan moratorium through Aug. 31 will keep money in the hands of millions of consumers who can spend it, helping to sustain demand. While the effect on growth and inflation will most likely be very small — Goldman Sachs estimates that it probably adds about $5 billion per month to the economy — some researchers say it sends the wrong message and comes at a bad time. The economy is booming, jobs are plentiful and conditions seem ideal for transitioning borrowers back into repayment.“Four months by itself is not going to get you dramatic inflation,” Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said, noting that a full-year moratorium would add only about 0.2 percentage points to inflation, by his estimate. (The White House estimates an even smaller number.) “But it’s four months, on top of four months before that.”Extra help for student loan borrowers could, at the margin, work at cross-purposes with the Fed’s recent policy changes, which are meant to take away household spending power and cool down demand.The Fed in March lifted interest rates for the first time since 2018, and it is expected to make an even larger increase in May as it tries to slow spending and give supply chains some breathing room. It is trying to weaken the economy just enough to put inflation and the economy on a sustainable path, without plunging it into a recession. If history is any guide, pulling that off will be a challenge.A chorus of economists took to Twitter to express frustration at the decision on Tuesday, when news of the administration’s plans broke.“Wherever one stands on student debt relief this approach is regressive, uncertainty creating, untargeted and inappropriate at a time when the economy is overheated,” wrote Lawrence H. Summers, a former Democratic Treasury secretary and economist at Harvard who has been warning about inflation risks for months. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office director who now runs the American Action Forum, which describes itself as a center-right policy institute, summed it up thusly: “aaaaaaarrrrrrRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!”Yet proponents of even stronger action argued that the moratorium was not enough — and that the affected student loans should be canceled altogether. Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts are among the lawmakers who have repeatedly pressed Mr. Biden to wipe out up to $50,000 per borrower through an executive action.That stark divide underlines the tightrope the administration is walking as the Nov. 8 elections approach, with Democratic control of the House and the Senate hanging in balance.“They’re buying political time,” Sarah A. Binder, a political scientist at George Washington University, said in an email. “Kicking the can down the road — with another extension, surely, before the elections this fall — seems to be the politically optimal move.”The administration is taking a calculated risk when it comes to inflation: Student loan deferrals are unlikely to be a major factor that drives inflation higher this year, even if they do add a little extra juice to demand at the margin. At the same time, continuing the policy avoids a political brawl that could tarnish the administration and the Democratic Party’s reputation ahead of the November vote.White House officials emphasized on Wednesday that the small amount of money the deferrals were adding to the economy each month would have only a marginal impact on inflation. But they could help vulnerable households — including those that did not finish their degrees and that have worse job prospects.Delivering packages in New York. The robust economic recovery from pandemic-era lockdowns has left consumers with the power to spend and has fueled fast price increases.Gabby Jones for The New York Times“The impact of extending the pause on inflation is extremely negligible — you’d have to go to the third decimal place to find it, and if you did, it would be .001,” said Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.The Federal Reserve Bank of New York suggested in recent research that some borrowers might struggle under the weight of payments and post a “meaningful rise” in delinquencies once payments start again. Mr. Biden referred to that Fed data during his announcement. The Education Department suggested that borrowers would be given a “fresh start” that will automatically eliminate delinquency and defaults and allow them to begin repayment, once it resumes, in good standing.Student Loans: Key Things to KnowCard 1 of 4Payments delayed again. More

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    Democrats Renew Push for Industrial Policy Bill Aimed at China

    A major competitiveness bill passed the Senate last year with bipartisan support, only to stall. Democrats hope to revive it in the House, but first they will have to bridge big differences.WASHINGTON — Biden administration officials and Democrats in Congress are pushing to revive stalled legislation that would pour billions of dollars into scientific research and development and shore up domestic manufacturing, amid deep differences on Capitol Hill about the best way to counter China and confront persistent supply chain woes.House Democrats unveiled a 2,900-page bill on Tuesday evening that would authorize $45 billion in grants and loans to support supply chain resilience and American manufacturing, along with providing billions of dollars in new funding for scientific research. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that she hoped lawmakers would quickly begin negotiations with the Senate, which passed its own version of the bill last June, to settle on compromise legislation that could be sent to President Biden for his signature.But the effort faces obstacles in Congress, where attempts to sink significant federal resources into scientific research and development to bolster competitiveness with China and combat a shortage of semiconductors have faltered. The Senate-passed measure fizzled last year amid ideological disputes with the House and a focus on efforts to pass Mr. Biden’s infrastructure and social policy bills. For months, the competitiveness measure was rarely even mentioned, except perhaps by Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, who has personally championed it.But facing a disruptive semiconductor shortage that has broken down supply chains and helped fuel inflation, Democrats are now vigorously pressing ahead on the bill. With Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda sputtering, the party is eager for a legislative victory, and top administration officials and lawmakers have said they hope to send a compromise bill to the president’s desk in a matter of months.“We have no time to waste in improving American competitiveness, strengthening our lead in global innovation and addressing supply chain challenges, including in the semiconductor industry,” Mr. Schumer said.Both the House bill and the one that passed the Senate last year would send a lifeline to the semiconductor industry during a global chip shortage that has shut auto plants and rippled through the economy. The bills would offer chip companies $52 billion in grants and subsidies with few restrictions.The measures would also pour billions more into scientific research and development pipelines in the United States, create grants and foster agreements between companies and research universities to encourage breakthroughs in new technologies, and establish new manufacturing jobs and apprenticeships.“The proposals laid out by the House and Senate represent the sort of transformational investments in our industrial base and research and development that helped power the United States to lead the global economy in the 20th century,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “They’ll help bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, and they’re squarely focused on easing the sort of supply chain bottlenecks like semiconductors that have led to higher prices for the middle class.”The semiconductor shortage has disrupted the economy, broken down supply chains and helped fuel inflation.Sarahbeth Maney/The New York TimesLawmakers will still need to overcome differing views in the House and Senate over how best to take on China and, perhaps more crucially, how to fund the nation’s scientific research.“There are disagreements, legitimate disagreements,” Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, said in an interview. “How do we do this? How do we get it right? There doesn’t seem to be much disagreement over the core $52 billion appropriation for chips. There is disagreement around how we make investments in research and development in basic science.”One major difference is that while the Senate bill invests heavily in specific fields of cutting-edge technology, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, the House bill places few stipulations on the new round of funding, other than to say that it should go toward fundamental research.In a memo on the legislation, House aides wrote that their measure was “focusing on solutions first, not tech buzzwords.”Some experts argue that approach lacks urgency. Stephen Ezell, the vice president for global innovation policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a policy group that receives funding from telecommunications and tech companies, called the House bill “not sufficient to enable the United States to win the advanced technology competition with China.” He argued that the focus on advanced technology in the Senate-passed bill would do more to increase American competitiveness.How the Supply Chain Crisis UnfoldedCard 1 of 9The pandemic sparked the problem. More

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    The Path Ahead for Biden: Overcome Manchin’s Inflation Fears

    A key Democrat’s decision to pull support from the president’s sprawling climate and social agenda is rooted in the scope of the bill.WASHINGTON — Senator Joe Manchin III, the West Virginia Democrat, effectively killed President Biden’s signature domestic policy bill in its current form on Sunday, saying he was convinced the spending and tax cuts in the $2.2 trillion legislation will exacerbate already hot inflation.Economic evidence strongly suggests Mr. Manchin is wrong. A host of economists and independent analyses have concluded that the bill is not economic stimulus, and that it will not pump enough money into consumer pocketbooks next year to raise prices more than a modest amount.The reason has to do with the pace at which the bill spends money and how much it raises through tax increases that are intended to pay for that spending. The legislation spends funds over a decade, allowing the taxes it raises on wealthy Americans and businesses, which will siphon money out of the economy, to help counteract the boost from spending and tax cuts.The bill also does not provide the type of direct stimulus included in the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package Mr. Biden signed in March — and which Mr. Manchin supported. Some of its provisions would give money directly to people, like a continued expanded child tax credit, but others would fund programs that would take time to ramp up, like universal prekindergarten.Economists say the net result is likely to be at most a tenth of a percentage point or two increase in the inflation rate. That would be a relatively small effect at a time when supply chain crunches, surging global oil demand and a pandemic shift among consumers away from travel and dining out and toward durable goods have combined to raise the annual inflation rate to 6.8 percent, its fastest pace in nearly 40 years.For months, Mr. Manchin has warned the president and congressional leaders that he was uncomfortable with the breadth of what had become a $2.2 trillion bill to fight climate change, continue monthly checks to parents, establish universal prekindergarten and invest in a wide range of spending and tax cuts targeting child care, affordable housing, home health care and more. He has cited both the risks of inflation and his fear that the package could further balloon the federal budget deficit, saying several programs that are now estimated to end in a few years would likely be made permanent.Over the past week, he has insisted that the bill shrink to fit the framework of less than $2 trillion that Mr. Biden announced this fall, and that — crucially — the legislation not use budget gimmicks to artificially lower the bill’s effect on the budget deficit.In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Manchin said Democrats “continue to camouflage the real cost of the intent behind this bill.”White House officials have tried to promote the idea that the bill would reduce price pressures right away — an outcome economists have not entirely bought into. But the general economic consensus finds little evidence to suggest the bill risks exacerbating rising food, gasoline and other prices.Today’s inflationary surge stems from a confluence of factors, many of them related to the pandemic. The coronavirus has caused factories to shutter and clogged ports, disrupting the supply of goods that Americans stuck at home have wanted to buy, like electronics, televisions and home furnishings.That high demand has been fueled in part by consumers who are flush with cash after months of lockdown and repeated government payments, including stimulus checks. Research from the Federal Reserve has shown that inflation is most likely getting a temporary increase from the coronavirus relief package in March, which included $1,400 direct checks to families and generous unemployment benefits. But Mr. Biden’s social policy bill would do relatively little to spur increased consumer spending next year and not enough to offset the loss of government stimulus to the economy as pandemic aid expires.White House aides have tried to make that case to Mr. Manchin — and the public — in recent weeks, pointing to a series of analyses that have dismissed inflationary fears pegged to the bill. That includes analysis from a pair of Democratic economists who warned about rising inflation earlier this year — Harvard’s Lawrence H. Summers and Jason Furman — and from the nonpartisan Penn Wharton Budget Model at the University of Pennsylvania. All of those analyses conclude that the bill would add little or nothing to inflation in the coming year.The disconnect between economic reality and Mr. Manchin’s stated concerns has exasperated the White House, which is struggling with voter discontent toward Mr. Biden over rising prices, as well as an unyielding pandemic.In a scathing statement about Mr. Manchin on Sunday, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, noted that the Penn Wharton analysis found Mr. Biden’s bill “will have virtually no impact on inflation in the short term, and in the long run, the policies it includes will ease inflationary pressures.”White House officials, who along with party leaders have spent weeks trying to bring Mr. Manchin to a place of comfort with Mr. Biden’s bill, registered a sense of betrayal after the senator’s declaration.Ms. Psaki said Mr. Manchin had last week personally submitted to the president an outline for a bill “that was the same size and scope as the president’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities.” He had also promised to continue discussions toward an agreement, she said.Republicans celebrated Mr. Manchin’s statement as evidence that the bill, which Democrats were attempting to pass along party lines, was full of inflationary policies that even the president’s own party could not get behind.Biden’s ​​Social Policy and Climate Bill at a GlanceCard 1 of 7The centerpiece of Biden’s domestic agenda. 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    Democrats Push for Agreement on Tax Deduction That Benefits the Rich

    Lawmakers are coalescing around a deal to suspend a $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions that was imposed during the Trump administration.WASHINGTON — Democrats were readying an agreement on Tuesday that would repeal a cap on the amount of state and local taxes that homeowners can deduct as part of a broader $1.85 trillion spending bill, a move that could amount to a significant tax cut for wealthy Americans in liberal states.But some liberals quickly balked at the emerging agreement, which would suspend a $10,000 cap on the so-called SALT deduction for five years, removing a limit that Republicans included in their 2017 tax package as a way to pay for cuts for corporations and the rich. The suspension would kick in for deductions related to property taxes and state and local income taxes accrued in 2021 and would run through 2025.If it passes, the deal would be a major concession to a handful of Democrats from high-income states like New York and New Jersey who have insisted on lifting the cap, in order to win their votes for President Biden’s social policy and climate change package.But liberal Democrats have scoffed at the push to include the costly proposal in the domestic policy package, particularly as party leaders have curtailed or eliminated other spending priorities as they pare down a $3.5 trillion blueprint to appease moderate and conservative-leaning Democrats.Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Budget Committee, blasted the repeal on Tuesday as a giveaway to the rich that went against the Democrats’ priorities.“I think there is a compromise to be reached here, a middle ground, which says that for families earning less than $400,000, they can take a complete exemption, but not families earning more than that,” said Mr. Sanders, who had released a blistering statement criticizing the agreement. “What exists is unacceptable, and one way or another it will be dealt with.”It remains unclear whether the agreement would apply broadly or if Democrats planned to impose an income cap to prevent the wealthiest Americans from receiving what amounts to a tax cut.A straight repeal of the cap for every household that claims the deduction would siphon huge amounts of revenue from the federal government: about $90 billion per year, according to budget experts.To get around that, the five-year suspension assumes that the cap is reinstated in 2026 for another five years, allowing Democrats to use a budget sleight of hand to show its removal as revenue neutral in the traditional 10-year window that lawmakers look to when considering a bill’s impact on the federal deficit.Three people with knowledge of the emerging agreement described it on the condition of anonymity and cautioned that discussions were continuing. Details of the talks were first reported by Punchbowl News.With Republicans opposed to Mr. Biden’s domestic policy plan, Democrats must win the support of all 50 senators who caucus with the party and all but three House lawmakers for the plan to become law. That effort is further complicated because Democrats are using an arcane process known as budget reconciliation, which shields fiscal legislation from the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate.Those restrictions mean that any lawmaker, particularly in the Senate, could effectively tank the legislation over his or her priorities, including insisting that the bill repeal SALT. Democrats from the high-income states that have been most affected by the limit have spent the past five years searching for an opportunity to roll it back for their constituents, despite complaints that it would largely benefit the wealthy.House Democrats including Representatives Tom Suozzi of New York, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey have made clear that they will not support the broader spending package without a SALT repeal. Mr. Gottheimer wore a large button emblazoned with the words “no SALT, no dice” to votes on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, has also voiced support for getting rid of the cap.“We’ve been fighting for this for years,” Mr. Gottheimer said on Tuesday, adding that reinstating the full deduction would amount to giving “tax relief to families that deserve it and who got hosed in 2017.”Delaying the cap for five years in a 10-year window could effectively allow lawmakers to claim that the proposal would not have an impact on the package’s cost. Yet some Democrats appeared confident that lawmakers would act again in five years to prevent the cap from going back into effect.“It’ll be pretty clear when they get tax relief, it’s going to be hard to take that back,” Mr. Gottheimer said, referring to families in his district.The SALT limit resulted in tax increases for wealthier Americans beginning in 2018, particularly higher earners from high-tax states, and helped Democrats capture some House seats that Republicans previously held in New Jersey, California and elsewhere.The deduction is largely used by wealthy homeowners who itemize their deductions and live in states and cities with high taxes, which tend to be led by Democrats. Democrats accused Republicans of using the cap to pay for other tax cuts for the rich and to penalize liberal states.“My guess is the majority of Americans with a net worth of $50 to $300 million would get a tax cut under the Build Back Better plan with a full repeal of SALT,” Jason Furman, an economist at Harvard who was the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama, said on Twitter on Tuesday. “The bill would do more for the super-rich than it does for climate change, childcare or preschool. That’s obscene.”But several lawmakers in the New York and New Jersey delegations have warned that their votes for the domestic policy package hinged on the inclusion of the provision, and Democrats have haggled for months over a possible solution.“We’re still going at it over it,” said Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, who joked on Tuesday that he had earned “a Ph.D. in the SALT deduction because it’s been argued from every perspective I can think of.”The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget described the repeal of the SALT cap as a “regressive” tax cut, estimating that it would cost $90 billion a year in lost government revenue. The wealthiest would make out the best, with a SALT cap repeal distributing more than $300,000 per household in the top 0.1 percent of earners and only $40 for a middle-income family over the first two years.“With the SALT cap repealed and current tax rates retained, in fact, the reconciliation package might actually offer a net tax cut for most high-income households,” the group said.The right-leaning Tax Foundation estimated that repealing the cap would increase after-tax income of the top 1 percent of earners by 2.8 percent, while the bottom 80 percent would get minimal benefit.Republicans seized on the agreement on Tuesday, accusing Democrats of hypocrisy for backing an “anti-progressive” handout.“First Democrats cut out paid leave,” J.P. Freire, a spokesman for Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, said on Twitter. “Now they’re shoveling money to the rich.” More

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    Funding Fight Threatens Plan to Pump Billions Into Affordable Housing

    A federal voucher program is at risk of being sharply scaled back as the White House seeks to slash its social policy package to appease two centrist senators.SAN FRANCISCO — Audrey Sylve, a retired bus driver, has spent 13 agonizing years on a waiting list for a federal voucher that would help cover rent for an apartment in one of America’s most expensive housing markets.This summer it seemed that help was finally on the way.In late July, congressional Democrats introduced a $322 billion plan to bolster low-income housing programs as part of the $3.5 trillion social spending plan embraced by President Biden. At its center is a $200 billion infusion of aid for the country’s poorest tenants, which would allow another 750,000 households to participate in a program that currently serves two million families.Affordable-housing advocates saw it as a once-in-a-generation windfall that would allow local governments to move thousands of low-income tenants like Ms. Sylve, 72, off waiting lists and to expand aid to families at the highest risk of homelessness.But optimism has given way to anxiety. Low-income housing, and the voucher program in particular, are among those most at risk of being sharply scaled back as the White House seeks to slash the package to accommodate the demands of two centrist Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, according to several people involved in the talks.Congressional negotiators are seeking to cut the overall size of the 10-year package, in coordination with the White House, to between $1.9 trillion and $2.3 trillion. Housing is just one of several high-price priorities on the chopping block in the negotiations.Yet proponents say no other proposal is likely to have as immediate an effect on the lives of the country’s most vulnerable as the increase in rental assistance because it addresses a foundational problem: securing an affordable place to live when rents everywhere are outpacing earnings.“I’m all for funding early childhood education, child care and the expansion of health care with education, but we cannot be successful with any of that unless people have safe and secure housing,” said Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who leads the House Financial Services Committee, which drafted the original plan.Supporters of the expansion say every penny is required to begin addressing a crisis that threatens to undermine recent gains in the fight to reduce poverty. They fear it will be elbowed aside by other programs, such as universal child care, that enjoy broader political support because they benefit middle-class, and not just poor, people.“Better health care or increased educational access doesn’t do much for families sleeping in their car or under a bridge, or for the millions more on the verge,” said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which is pressuring the White House to fund the program as it was drafted. “There are no ‘savings’ to be had here.”The financial services industry, which puts together the complex public-private financing packages used to build most affordable developments, has already factored in a significantly scaled-back congressional compromise.“Much of the proposed $400 billion in housing-related grants and tax subsidies is likely to be cut from the reconciliation bill,” analysts from Goldman Sachs wrote in an email last week. That figure bundled the $332 billion package, which also includes increases for public housing authorities and an affordable housing construction fund, with a smaller package of tax breaks in the bill.White House officials say they have made no decisions. Ms Waters and her counterpart in the Senate, Sherrod Brown, a Democrat of Ohio, said they would not accept any deal that cut the housing plan more than any other proposal.“We’re not going to scale back. We’re not going to lose our way on this,” Mr. Brown, chairman of the Banking Committee, said in an interview. “And we’re not going to compromise the mission of transforming the fight on poverty.”The White House is looking for ways to win support for its package from Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin III.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesOver the past two decades, the federal government has stopped bankrolling construction of government-run public housing projects. Instead, it has shifted resources to voucher programs, which bridge the financial gap between what a poor tenant can afford to pay and what a landlord might reasonably expect to get on the open market.Demand far outstrips supply: One recent study found that the federal government has provided funding for only a quarter of the vouchers needed to help house eligible families — and many housing authorities have simply stopped taking names to avoid leaving tenants in the lurch.Even if the voucher increase somehow makes it past Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema, it would represent only a down payment on an enormous unmet need for housing aid exacerbated by rocketing real estate values in most major cities.California’s estimated share of the new aid would bankroll only a fraction of the new vouchers needed to meet the demand, said Matthew Schwartz, president of the California Housing Partnership, a nonprofit that works with community groups to finance low-income housing projects.But it would be a significant improvement, Mr. Schwartz said, particularly on top of a $22 billion affordable-housing plan that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law this summer.Joseph Villarreal, executive director of the housing authority of Contra Costa County, outside San Francisco, is less concerned about the future than fulfilling the promises he has made in the past. He saw the new cash in personal terms, as a way to fulfill a commitment more than a decade in arrears.“It would be horrible if any, much less the majority, if this voucher money gets cut from the proposal,” he said.Mr. Villarreal’s organization, which serves as a pass-through for federal funding, maintains 51 separate waiting lists for the vouchers — some for specific developments, others for targeted demographic groups, with 47,000 families in limbo. “It weighs on me,” he said of the lists.Ms. Sylve, who said she was scraping by on a small pension and Social Security, was one of 6,000 chosen from 40,000 qualified Contra Costa County applicants in a lottery to be added to the slow-moving queue for the program, which is still known by its historical name, Section 8.A few years ago she was told that a voucher was about to become available, but that fell through, and she has spent much of the past 13 years hopping from apartment to apartment. Last spring, Ms. Sylve moved in with her daughter across the bay in San Francisco, because the neighborhood around her apartment had become too dangerous.“They give you hope, and that’s the hardest part,” Ms. Sylve said. “But you keep hoping, year after year after year.”A survey of 44 large housing authorities across the country conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning Washington think tank, painted a grim picture of the voucher program. A total of 737,000 people were on waiting lists, and 32 of the authorities are refusing to take new applications, with a few exceptions for particularly vulnerable populations.The situation on the West Coast was especially dire, with eight times as many people lingering on waiting lists as receiving aid in San Diego, where the list has topped 108,000. Long waiting lists are also a staple in Washington, Philadelphia, Houston, Honolulu, Little Rock, Ark., and New York, which closed its list years ago.Will Fischer, director for housing policy for the center, said bolstering the voucher program was the most important single move the federal government could make to address the homelessness crisis.“Look, the public housing money is urgently needed — but it would be for existing units, for families who already have a place to live,” he said. “And most of the other funding in the proposal actually serves people a little bit higher up the income scale.”Representative Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat whose district is among the poorest in the country, said housing always seemed to be listed as the third, fourth or fifth priority of many liberal lawmakers.When House Democrats peppered Mr. Biden with questions about the social spending package at a meeting in the Capitol this month, Mr. Torres — a former chairman of the New York City Council housing committee — was stunned when he realized no one had asked the president about rental aid, and spoke up.Mr. Biden responded by promising he would “protect” housing, without elaborating, Mr. Torres said. 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    As Democrats Trim Spending Bill, Some Americans Fear Being Left Behind

    President Biden had an ambitious agenda to remake the economy. But under the duress of negotiations and Senate rules, he has shelved a series of proposals, some of them indefinitely.WASHINGTON — Democrats in Congress are curbing their ambitions for President Biden’s economic agenda, and Jennifer Mount, a home health care aide, worries that means she will not get the raise she needs to pay more than $3,000 in medical bills for blindness in one eye.Edison Suasnavas, who came to the United States from Ecuador as a child, has grown anxious about the administration’s efforts to establish a pathway to citizenship, which he hoped would allow him to keep doing molecular tests for cancer patients in Utah without fear of deportation.And Amy Stelly wonders — thanks to a winnowing of Mr. Biden’s plans to invest in neighborhoods harmed by previous infrastructure projects like highways that have harmed communities of color — whether she will continue to breathe fumes from a freeway that she says constantly make her home in New Orleans shudder. She has a message for the president and the Democrats who are in the process of trying to pack his sprawling agenda into a diminishing legislative package.“You come up and live next to this,” Ms. Stelly said. “You live this quality of life. We suffer while you debate.”Mr. Biden began his presidency with an expensive and wide-ranging agenda to remake the U.S. economy. But under the duress of negotiations and Senate rules, he has shelved a series of his most ambitious proposals, some of them indefinitely.He has been thwarted in his efforts to raise the federal minimum wage and create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He has pared back investments in lead pipe removal and other efforts that would help communities of color. Now, as the president tries to secure votes from moderates in his party, he is reducing what was originally a $3.5 trillion collection of tax cuts and spending programs to what could be a package of $2 trillion or less.That is still an enormous spending package, one that Mr. Biden argues could shift the landscape of the economy. But a wide range of Americans who have put their faith in his promises to reshape their jobs and lives are left to hope that the programs they are banking on will survive the cut; otherwise, they face the prospect of waiting years or perhaps decades for another window of opportunity in Washington.“The problem now is this may be the last train leaving the station for a long time,” said Jason Furman, an economist at the Harvard Kennedy School who was a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama. “It could be five, 10, 20 years before there’s another shot at a lot of these issues.”President Biden entered the White House with an expensive and ambitious agenda to remake the U.S. economy. He has pared back those plans.Tom Brenner for The New York TimesMr. Furman and other former Obama administration officials saw firsthand how quickly a presidential agenda can shrink, and how presidential and congressional decisions can leave campaign priorities unaddressed for years. Mr. Obama prioritized an economic stimulus package and the creation of the Affordable Care Act over sweeping immigration and climate legislation in the early years of his presidency.Stimulus and health care passed. The other two did not. A similar fate now could befall Mr. Biden’s plans for home care workers, paid leave, child care subsidies, free prekindergarten and community college, investments in racial equity and, once again, immigration and climate change.If Mr. Biden is able to push through a compromise bill with major investments in emissions reduction, “he’s got an engine that he’s working with” to fight climate change, said John Podesta, a former top aide to Mr. Obama and President Bill Clinton. “If he can’t get it, then I think, you know, we’re really kind of in soup, facing a major crisis.”Republicans have criticized the spending and the tax increases that would help fund it, claiming that the Democratic package would hurt the economy. Democrats “just have an insatiable appetite to raise taxes and spend more money,” Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, said on “Fox News Sunday” this week. “It would kill jobs.”Amy Stelly said she wondered whether she would continue to breathe fumes from the Claiborne Expressway, which is near her home in New Orleans.Edmund D. Fountain for The New York TimesThe threat of Republican filibusters has blocked Mr. Biden’s plans for gun and voting-rights legislation.For now, though, the president’s biggest problem is his own party. He is negotiating with progressives and moderates over the size of the larger tax and spending package. Centrists like Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have pushed for the price tag to fall below $2 trillion. Mr. Manchin has said he wants to limit the availability of some programs to lower- and middle-income earners. Progressive groups are jockeying to ensure that their preferred plans are not cut entirely from the bill.The House has proposed investing $190 billion in home health care, for example, less than half of what Mr. Biden initially asked for. If the price tag continues to decrease, Democrats would almost certainly have to choose between two concurrent aims: expanding access to older Americans in need of caretakers or raising the wages of those workers, a group that is disproportionately women of color.Another proposal included in Mr. Biden’s original infrastructure bill was an investment of $20 billion to address infrastructure that has splintered communities of color, although the funding was slashed to $1 billion through a compromise with Republican senators.Ms. Stelly thought the funds, plus the president’s sweeping proposals to address climate change — which might also be narrowed to appease centrist Democrats — would finally result in elected officials addressing the highway emissions that have filled her lungs and darkened the windows of her home.Ms. Stelly, an urban designer, has since limited her expectations. She said she hoped the funding would be enough to at least issue another study of the highway, which claimed dozens of Black-owned businesses and the once-thriving neighborhood of Tremé.The Claiborne Expressway bisects the residential neighborhood of Tremé in New Orleans. Ms. Stelly said she hoped the funding would be enough for another study on the effects of the highway.William Widmer for The New York TimesSome Democrats are eager to pack as much as they can into the bill because they fear losing the House, the Senate or both in the midterm elections next year. Mr. Podesta has urged lawmakers to see the package as a chance to avoid those losses by giving Democratic incumbents a batch of popular programs to run on, and also giving the president policy victories that could define his legacy.Mr. Biden has promoted some of his policies as ways to reverse racial disparities in the economy and lift families that are struggling in the coronavirus pandemic from poverty.Ms. Mount, who immigrated to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago, said she was appreciative of her job helping older Americans and the disabled eat and bathe and assisting them in their homes. But her wages for her long hours — working about 50 hours a week for $400, at times — have made it effectively impossible to stay on top of payments for basic needs.She had hoped Mr. Biden’s plan to raise the minimum wage or salaries for home health care aides meant she would no longer need to choose between her electric bills and her medical expenses. She said the treatment had improved her blindness, but without a salary increase for her field, she is more convinced that she will be working for the rest of her life.“I have to make a choice: Do I go to the grocery store or pay my mortgage? Do I pay my water bill or pay my electric bill?” said Ms. Mount, who lives in Philadelphia. “With that, retirement looks B-L-E-A-K, all uppercase. What do I have there for retirement?”When Mr. Biden initially proposed two years of free community college, Ms. Mount, 64, was encouraged about future opportunities for her six grandchildren in the United States. But she fears that effort could also be cut.“That’s politics from on top,” she said. “At times, they always seem detached.”Protesters gathered in front of the White House in August in support of the DACA program, which protects young immigrants from deportation.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesSome measures that Democrats have long promised voters have run afoul of Senate rules that dictate which policies the administration should include in bills that use a special process to bypass the filibuster, including a minimum-wage increase and a plan to offer citizenship to immigrants brought to the United States as children.When the Senate parliamentarian rejected the strategy, it made Mr. Suasnavas, who has lived in the United States since he was 13, consider the prospect of eventually being deported; he would have to leave behind his job as a medical technology specialist, and his 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.“We’ve been having the hopes that politicians in Washington — Democrats and Republicans — will see not only the economic impact we can bring to the country but also we’re still people with families,” said Mr. Suasnavas, 35. “Our hearts have been broken so many times that it feels like another wound in your skin.” More

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    Finance Executives Say Risk of Default Is Already Damaging the Economy

    Shortly after the C.E.O.s met with President Biden, Senator Mitch McConnell said he would allow Democrats to raise the debt ceiling enough to push a potential default to December.Finance executives met with President Biden as an Oct. 18 debt-ceiling deadline inched closer, warning that a U.S. default would threaten the global economy. Senate Republicans have promised to filibuster a long-term suspension of the borrowing limit.Doug Mills/The New York TimesPresident Biden met with finance executives on Wednesday as he continued to try to put maximum pressure on Senate Republicans to raise the debt ceiling before Oct. 18, the date the Treasury Department has said the United States would go into default.Shortly after the meeting, Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, seemed to relent from his opposition to allowing Democrats to lift the ceiling in the short term through regular channels. He said he would “allow Democrats to use normal procedures to pass an emergency debt limit extension at a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels into December.”The White House dismissed Mr. McConnell’s statement as an informal offer and said the president would rather Republicans allow a vote on a spending bill to go forward.The executives all warned that the economy would be threatened should the country default on its debts for the first time in history.“It’s already beginning to cause some damage in the economy,” Jane Fraser, the chief executive of Citigroup, told the president. “It will hurt consumers. It will hurt small businesses.”“It’s not an exaggeration to say that even small distortions in the Treasury market can cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars over many years,” she added, referring to the market for bonds issued by the Treasury Department.Mr. Biden, seeking to convey the consequences to everyday Americans, asked the executives to explain what would happen if the United States went into default for only a day or two.“Certainly, as we know, there are hundreds of millions of investors that are involved in the markets today that have put their hard-earned savings into the markets,” said Adena Friedman, the chief executive of Nasdaq. “And we would expect that the markets will react very, very negatively.”Mr. McConnell of Kentucky had long said Democrats must use a more complicated process known as reconciliation to overcome Republican opposition to raising the debt ceiling. In his statement on Wednesday, he reiterated that the reconciliation process was the only option he supported for a longer-term increase in the limit, unless “Democrats abandon their efforts to ram through another historically reckless taxing and spending spree.”The financial sector had been projecting a grim two weeks ahead. A report released by Goldman Sachs said that there was little reason to believe Congress would meet the Oct. 18 deadline, but that “the public and financial market response would likely force a quick political resolution.”Senate Democrats are still weighing their options for a path forward. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Wednesday that the White House did not want to keep prolonging things with an extension. “We don’t need to go through a cumbersome process that every day brings additional risks,” Ms. Psaki said.Asked why the White House does not support a short-term debt ceiling increase that could, at least temporarily, calm financial markets, Ms. Psaki replied, “Why not just get it done now?” She said Mr. Biden and Mr. McConnell had not yet spoken about the debt limit.The budget process of reconciliation would most likely involve two marathons of politically charged votes that Mr. Biden has predicted would be “fraught with all kinds of potential danger for miscalculation.” Democrats say there is no guarantee that Republicans wouldn’t drag those votes out to inflict procedural and political discomfort.Understand the U.S. Debt CeilingCard 1 of 9What is the debt ceiling? More