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Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) walks near the Senate Chamber during a vote at the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 7. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is warning that he could vote against the $3.5 trillion budget package if more money isn’t added for housing assistance to close the racial wealth gap in the current House version of the bill, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Warner’s threat is another indication that the proposal will face a variety of obstacles before the House and Senate can agree to a top-line number, how that money is spent on specific programs — and how to pay for it all.

  • "As currently written, this proposal falls short,” Warner said in a statement to Axios about the House provisions on housing assistance.
  • Warner, a member of the Budget Committee who helped negotiate the $3.5 trillion number in the Senate, is taking issue with the amount of funding for first-time homebuyers in the House, which he thinks is around $600 million.
  • “I will be working in the Senate to make the American dream of homeownership and wealth creation more accessible to historically disadvantaged communities.”

The big picture: House and Senate committees are drafting specific legislation to raise $1.5 trillion in new revenues and spend some $3.5 trillion to expand the social safety net, including a variety of new programs from universal preschool to free community college to new money for housing and rental assistance.

  • The top line numbers could dramatically change, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) telling CNN’s Dana Bash that the $3.5 trillion package will “not have my vote.”
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also told the same program that Manchin's refusal to support the $3.5 trillion plan was "absolutely not acceptable to me."
  • "I don't think it's acceptable to the president, for the American people, or the overwhelming majority of the people in the Democratic caucus,” he added.

Between the lines: Warner had negotiated a private agreement in the Senate for billions of dollars for down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers and to give them new tools — including a 20-year federal mortgage — to help them build equity in their home.

  • Warner's focus is on racial equity: “We have an obligation to use this historic investment to address longstanding inequities of power and opportunity that have left Black families with an average net worth one-10th the size of their white counterparts."

The other side: The House version of the bill does include $10 billion for first-time, first-generation homebuyers, according to a fact sheet from the House Financial Services Committee.

  • It allocates $500 million for Warner's 20-year mortgage proposal, known as LIFT.

Go deeper: Manchin has privately warned the White House and congressional leaders that he has specific policy concerns with President Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending dream — and he'll support as little as $1 trillion of it.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information about provisions in the House bill to help first-time homebuyers.

Go deeper

Sep 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Dems seek new green deal

Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Democrats discussed with President Biden on Wednesday a plan to exempt billions of dollars of new climate spending from his requirement that his $3.5 trillion "soft" infrastructure plan be offset with additional revenue.

Why it matters: The accounting proposal — a version of "dynamic scoring" — would dramatically lower the amount of taxes Democrats would need to raise while creating wiggle room to increase the ultimate size of the package.

Biden's big bet backfires

Two key dealmakers — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) — leave a luncheon in the Capitol yesterday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/L.A. Times via Getty Images

President Biden bit off too much, too fast in trying to ram through what would be the largest social expansion in American history, top Democrats privately say.

Why it matters: At the time Biden proposed it, he had his mind set on a transformational accomplishment that would put him in the pantheon of FDR and JFK.

Biden sinks in swing districts

Photo: Biden speaks about wild fires and climate change in Sacramento on September 13, 2021. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/ AFP via Getty Images

Sudden doubts about President Biden's competence — on Afghanistan, immigration and COVID — are driving double-digit drops in his approval in private polling in swing House seats, The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter writes.

Why it matters: "[T]hese early mistakes go directly to the very rationale of his presidency; that it would be low drama and high competence."

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