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After negotiating weeks, there's still no deal on Biden's domestic agenda


Paid family leave is not part of President Biden's revised spending proposal, which the White House made public around 9 a.m. this morning. It serves as one illustration of the way Biden's ambitious agenda has been whittled back, and we don't know yet whether this proposal will break the deadlock among Democrats.

Matt Bennett is with us. He's the co-founder of the Democratic think tank Third Way. Good morning, Matt.

MATT BENNETT: Good morning.

KING: So in this new proposal that we got about an hour ago, at about 9 a.m., what are the changes? What stood out to you?

BENNETT: Well, the thing that leaped off the page to me was how big and ambitious this actually is. And of course, it all is relative depending on what you're comparing it to. If your baseline is, you know, the $10 trillion that Bernie Sanders wanted to spend, well, then this seems small. But if your baseline is what any other president has ever achieved, this is huge. This is bigger in real dollars than the New Deal. So spending $1.75 trillion on things like climate action and helping middle-class and working-class families - that is huge and a huge accomplishment for Biden if it gets done.

KING: You have wanted Democrats to get this done. You've told us that. You've told them that. Do you think this one will get it done?

BENNETT: I do. I think that the president has been very careful not to, you know, spike the football on the 5-yard line and not to declare victory before he has it in hand. So I'm confident that by putting this out publicly and going to the Hill and talking to Democrats about this, he has agreement from the main players. Obviously, Senators Manchin, Sinema, the speaker, the leader and the White House all seem to be on the same page.

KING: Paid family leave was one of those things that a lot of voters seem to be in favor of, right? So it started out at 12 weeks. It went down to four weeks. Now it's at zero weeks - Serves as just kind of an illustration. I wonder, how do you think this proposal, if indeed it ends up being the one, is going to play among voters who seemed to at the beginning really support an ambitious Biden agenda - more ambitious than this one, we got to say?

BENNETT: Well, sure, there's people that are going to be disappointed by this, people who have been watching this very carefully. And any time you have a difficult negotiation, everyone is going to walk away somewhat disappointed. But our view is that on balance, this is an enormous win for Americans and for Democrats. And I think when we put the kind of sausage-making behind us in a few weeks and start to focus on what is actually in the bill and what it will do - this huge expansion of child care and health care and help for working families and investments in clean energy - I really think that it's going to be an enormous benefit for Democrats as they round the bend into next year.

KING: Matt Bennett of the think tank Third Way. Thanks for taking the time. We appreciate it.

BENNETT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.