Biden will not bend on $400,000 'line in the sand' on tax hikes, says economic adviser

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A top economic adviser to President Biden said Tuesday that Mr. Biden is willing to work with Republicans on his $2.3 trillion infrastructure but that he will not compromise on sparing people earning less than $400,000 per year from any planned tax increases.

“He said, and I quoted this … compromise is inevitable. And that’s part of how Joe Biden works. I mean, he will always reach across the aisle, try to cooperate,” Jared Bernstein, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, told several reporters outside the White House.

“But a couple of points on this: One, if you have a different pay-for bring it to the table — but it can’t violate the $400,000 line in the sand, right?” Mr. Bernstein said. “He has consistently argued that any of the tax increases have to hold harmless people below 400K. So that’s going to be a rule he’s not going to bend on and that’s probably the right way to think about it.”

The White House has said the $400,000 threshold applies to both individuals and families.

Mr. Biden mentioned increasing the gas tax in a meeting with lawmakers on Monday — but only to shoot it down as a legitimate way to pay for the package, according to the White House.

The president wants to increase corporate taxes by roughly $2.5 trillion in order to generate sufficient revenues to cover the cost of the plan.

The tax hikes include increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. The 2017 GOP tax law had lowered it from 35%.

Congressional Republicans say they’ll oppose any proposal to roll back major parts of the tax law.

“It would be an almost impossible sell from the president to come to a bipartisan agreement that included the undoing of that [law]. I did tell him that,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican who was at the White House Monday. “He disagrees.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, told reporters Monday that he’s not wedded to the 21% rate, pointing out that he proposed a 25% corporate rate during his 2012 presidential campaign.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, has also floated a 25% rate.

Mr. Romney said increasing the corporate rate to 28%, plus other changes, could lead to some companies leaving U.S. shores.

“But I’d rather consider settings where people who are getting the benefit are paying for the benefit,” Mr. Romney said. “User fees, gas tax, those kinds of things. If we’re going to be providing a benefit to a particular segment of our society, then that would make sense to consider.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that proposals like user fees have been floated but said Mr. Biden doesn’t want to pay for the package “on the backs of the American people.”

“He’s certainly eager to hear ideas from Democrats and Republicans on alternatives,” Ms. Psaki said.

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