WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers are closing in on an agreement on the scope of their economic stimulus package and hope to reach a compromise as early as this week, people briefed on the negotiations said on Tuesday .

Striving to negotiate a deal, Biden met with 19 lawmakers on Tuesday during an unusually busy day of legislative negotiations. He aimed to secure what could be his administration’s signature effort, a multibillion-dollar legislative package and two bills that expands welfare programs and infrastructure spending.

A source said a deal could be announced midweek if things go well; two others said the White House was hoping for an announcement in the coming days.

“After a day of constructive meetings, the President is more confident tonight on the way forward to provide the American people with strong and sustained economic growth that benefits all,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. in a written statement released Tuesday evening. .

The talks focused on a “shared commitment to the care economy, ensuring that working families have more room to maneuver, dealing with the climate crisis and investing in industries of the future so that we can be globally competitive, ”Psaki said.

“There was broad agreement that there is an urgent need to move forward over the next few days and that the window to finalize a package is closing,” she said. .

A spending package initially estimated at $ 3.5 trillion over a decade could be reduced from $ 1.9 trillion to $ 2.2 trillion, said Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, after having met Biden.

Biden told Democrats in a private meeting that he believed a deal could be made between $ 1.75 and $ 1.9 trillion, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday evening.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also said Democrats aim to reach a framework deal this week. Speaking to reporters following a closed-door lunch with other Democrats, he said: “There was universal agreement in this room that we have to come to an agreement, and we want it. do this week. “

A deal will likely be much less ambitious than Biden’s original plan. Initiatives in this proposal that could see cuts include $ 322 billion for affordable housing, money for paid family leave and some $ 400 billion to increase home care for the elderly and disabled, according to one. person close to the case.

Biden told lawmakers a program offering free community college was on the verge of cutting and a child tax credit could be extended for fewer years than expected, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Everyone who spoke to Reuters warned that the negotiations were fragile, still ongoing and that a deal could still fail.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set an Oct. 31 deadline for the House to pass a $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure deal that the Senate has already approved and is benefiting from. broad bipartisan support.

Biden met with House Progressives on Tuesday, who refused to pass the infrastructure bill unless it was paired with a larger budget bill that would fund Biden’s campaign pledges on the climate, inequalities and social programs.

“We all feel even more optimistic about reaching a deal,” to get much of what they wanted months ago, Jayapal said.

She said there were still no “final” details on the main parts of the initiative, including on climate change. Another progressive, Representative Ro Khanna, said Biden’s plan for a universal preschool remains a priority.

The president also met with moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on Tuesday, who expressed concern over the size of the bill and urged Biden to reduce the upfront cost. They have a virtual veto on his agenda because both houses of Congress are only closely controlled by Democrats. Republicans widely oppose the broader social spending bill.

Asked how much the expense bill was, Manchin shouted “I’m at $ 1.5 trillion” to congressional reporters on Tuesday night.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester, who attended a White House meeting with another group of moderates, said afterwards: “I think we are making very good progress, better progress than I thought.”

One of Biden’s main selling points during last year’s presidential campaign was his ability to find common ground during a time of deep political polarization, touting his 36 years as a moderate U.S. Democratic senator from the United States. Delaware.

Weeks of negotiations, however, failed to close the gap on the spending bill. Biden said on Oct. 1 he would come to a deal “whether it’s six minutes, six days, or six weeks,” but White House officials grew worried over the weeks.

Additional reports by Richard Cowan, Timothy Gardner and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Heather Timmons, Alistair Bell, Cynthia Osterman and Richard Pullin

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