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President Biden speaks at the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Photo: Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Democrats don't have the votes to raise corporate taxes, President Biden admitted at Thursday's CNN town hall in Baltimore, Maryland, where he went into detail on the state of negotiations concerning the massive reconciliation bill.

Why it matters: Democrats are still negotiating what will go into the bill. Divisions within the party have stalled the legislation for weeks.

What he's saying: Biden's appearance at the town hall peeled back the curtain to give Americans visibility into how the sausage gets made and why there are sticking points.

The president conceded on Thursday that Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), among other moderates, opposes tax rate hikes for corporations and high-earners, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has suggested she could accept.

  • "Look, when you're ... President of the United States and you have 50 Democrats [in the Senate], everyone is a president," Biden said when pressed on whether there will be an actual increase in corporate tax rates.
  • "Every single one. So you've got to work things out."

Biden's free community college proposal, which has faced pushback from Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), is also no longer in the legislation, Biden said — though there will be funding for community colleges that teach specialized skills.

Federal paid parental leave, which the White House initially outlined as a 12-week proposal, is down to four weeks, he confirmed.

The big picture: In an episode highlighting the divisions, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) he can live without any of President Biden's social spending plan, Axios' Alayna Treene and Hans Nichols write.

  • Manchin's comfort level with zero as a final number reveals a stark reality for Democratic negotiators: Manchin can control the final dollar amount.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House voted Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

California father and son accused of "reckless arson" in Calder Fire

Firefighters at the Caldor Fire along Highway 89 west of Lake Tahoe, California, in September. Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California officials said they arrested a father and son Wednesday on suspicion of starting the Caldor Fire, which threatened the Lake Tahoe area as it burned for over two months earlier this year. They deny any wrongdoing.

Why it matters: The wildfire was the 15th-biggest ever recorded in California, razing more than 1,000 structures, forcing thousands to evacuate and injuring five people as it burned across nearly 222,000 acres of land in El Dorado, Amador and Alpine counties.

New Zealand aims to create smoke-free generation with tobacco ban

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a December news conference in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand officials announced Thursday legislative plans to outlaw smoking by making it illegal to sell or supply tobacco products to the next generation as part of a lifetime ban.

Why it matters: "People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco," Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said in a statement announcing the proposed law, part of the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan.