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Biden will attend summits in Europe as he struggles to get agreements at home


Universal pre-K, more than $500 billion in funding for climate change and the extension of a tax break for parents - those are the key elements of the $1.75 trillion framework President Biden is trying to sell to House Democrats this morning before he leaves for a diplomatic trip to Rome. The big problem Biden is facing - many of those lawmakers are going to be focused on things no longer in the big legislative plan that Biden has been struggling to pass.

Joining us now from Rome, where he's waiting for the president to arrive, is NPR White House correspondent, the highly caffeinated Scott Detrow. Scott...


MARTÍNEZ: ...This legislation's fate has been really up in the air all week. What do we expect to hear from Biden this morning?

DETROW: Yeah, Biden is heading to Capitol Hill to sell this proposal. He's going to give a speech at the White House as well before he heads to Rome. The White House is saying this is a framework, something all Democrats can and should be able to agree on. And that is very different than this is a done deal, and I've secured the votes I need, which is something that White House officials have notably declined to say so far when talking to reporters. What they are saying is that they're optimistic that this could pass the Senate, and that's been the problem all along with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, objecting to the cost and tax hikes in the initial plan. But this has been a tricky balance for Biden for months because every time the White House conceded and cut a program to get those two votes, it made many House Democrats angry.

MARTÍNEZ: Can and should be able to agree on - any sense on whether the can and the should will become a will be able to agree on?

DETROW: That's going to be the big question. It's been the big question for a long time. You know, the White House had been focused on those two Senate votes. They need every single Democrat in a 50-50 Senate. But let's take one example of something that's no longer in the plan and has a lot of progressives angry, and that's paid family leave. Biden had campaigned on this idea of a broad progressive change to the social safety net. He had not shied away from comparisons to Franklin Roosevelt, which really gave a sense of the scope that he was at least promising.

Paid family leave, a big example of that - it's something the U.S. trails the rest of the developed world on and something that, after the pandemic, a lot of families who did have it really appreciated and realized how much of a lifeline it was. This has gone from a 12-week proposal down to a four-week proposal. Now it is out of the bill. So that's going to be one big question with progressives. There's also some new tax proposals in here for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and that's something where we'll have a lot of questions for moderate Democrats in both the House and the Senate to see how they feel about this.

MARTÍNEZ: So Scott, how does the timing of all this affect his ability to get things done in Europe when he goes there?

DETROW: Look; in the long term, if this bill and the infrastructure bill that's been tied up waiting for this never passed, that's really disastrous for Biden's presidency. In the short term, even if things still remain unclear - if the timeline isn't clear, if it's not sure if the votes are there, that's going to be a challenge for Biden because a lot of these policies are tied to the big themes that he's working with other world leaders on at the G-20 and then this climate summit. The G-20 - Biden wants to finalize plans for a 15% global minimum tax on corporations. Of course, the climate summit in Scotland next week, it's all about more aggressive plans to cut carbon emissions fast. Biden needs to be able to make the case to other world leaders that he can get these things passed by his own party. If they don't believe that he can, it really undercuts his ability to persuade them to take these tough domestic measures in their own countries.

MARTÍNEZ: What are some of the highlights of the president's overseas agenda?

DETROW: Two big meetings tomorrow - Biden is meeting with the pope, then he has a meeting with Emmanuel Macron, which is a bit of a make-up after a deal that Biden struck with Australia and the United Kingdom this summer - really upset France. It lost a big military contract with Australia to the point where Macron recalled France's ambassador to the U.S., so Biden's been on the phone with him to try and repair that relationship. They're going to meet in Rome tomorrow to fix that.

MARTÍNEZ: Scott Detrow in Rome. Scott, thanks a lot. Ciao. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.