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Biden to propose free preschool, community college in address to Congress

He is also expected to announce an extension to the expanded child care tax benefit as part of his American Families Plan.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will announce a roughly $1.8 trillion plan to invest in universal preschool, free community college and expanded access to child care in his joint address to Congress on Wednesday night, the White House said.

The proposal, which the White House calls the American Families Plan, would also increase taxes on the wealthy to offset the cost over 15 years. It is the second phase of Biden's two-part push to reshape the economy, following the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, which he announced last month.

"We view the American Families Plan as a core element of President Biden's strategy to build back better and generate a strong and inclusive economy for the future," a senior administration official said in a call with reporters.

The official argued that by investing in social programs to help families, the plan would reduce deficits in the long term.

The American Families Plan would provide universal preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds, as well as two years of free community college. Both programs would be available regardless of income. The plan would also extend the expansion of the federal child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan through 2025 and permanently make the tax credit fully refundable.

It would also ensure that low- and middle-income families did not pay more than 7 percent of their incomes on child care, which could entirely wipe out the cost for some of the poorest Americans. The plan would also establish a national paid leave program that would provide up to $4,000 a month for 12 weeks for parental, family or personal leave.

The plan does not include measures to lower the cost of prescription drugs or lower the Medicare eligibility age, as some Democrats had been pushing for. The plan would instead make permanent the Affordable Care Act premium reductions established as part of the American Rescue Plan.

Biden will propose a number of tax increases on the rich to pay for the plan, including raising the top tax rate on the wealthiest Americans to 39.6 percent, raising taxes on capital gains to 39.6 percent for households making more than $1 million and ending the estate tax loophole for gains in excess of $1 million.

The White House views Biden's address as an opportunity to pivot from the Covid-19 crisis to other agenda priorities, and it will mark a new stage of legislative challenges.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have already voiced opposition to raising taxes, and it is unclear how the White House plans to pass the American Families Plan with narrow Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate. Biden also has not made it clear how he plans to simultaneously juggle the American Jobs Plan with the American Families Plan.

"There is broad support from the American people for this approach. There's broad support from the American people for the investments that these resources will go to," the administration official said when asked how the White House planned to persuade Republicans to get on board with tax increases. "And what you'll hear the president explain tomorrow night, if people have other ideas how to finance these critical investments, he's open to hearing them."

In addition to the American Families Plan, Biden is expected to focus on racial justice and police reform.

Biden's speech is expected to begin at 9 p.m. ET.