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Democrats tackling flash points of taxes, health, climate

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Democrats tackling flash points of taxes, health, climate

By ALAN FRAM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Revamp the tax code and important federal health care and environment programs. Spend $3.5 trillion over 10 years, but maybe a lot less. Ensure that no more than three Democrats in all of Congress vote “no” because Republicans will be unanimously opposed.

Try to finish within the next couple of weeks. And oh yes: Failure means President Joe Biden’s own party will have repudiated him on the cornerstone of his domestic agenda.

That’s what congressional Democrats face as they try writing a final version of a massive bill bolstering the social safety net and strengthening efforts to tame climate change. Here’s a guide to some pivotal differences they must resolve:

PRICE TAG

The White House and top Democrats compromised on a $3.5 trillion, 10-year cost for the bill. That’s a huge sum, though a fraction of the $61 trillion in federal spending already slated over that period.

Moderates led by Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have said $3.5 trillion is too expensive, and votes from every Democrat in the 50-50 Senate are mandatory for success. Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have recently acknowledged what seems inevitable: The final cost may have to drop.

Manchin has suggested limiting the total to $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion, which progressives reject as paltry. Led by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., they initially said at least $6 trillion was needed for serious efforts to help families and curb global warming.

Eventually a compromise will be reached, with some expecting it in the $2 trillion to $2.5 trillion range. But since House committees just finished crafting a $3.5 trillion version of the package, a smaller price tag means some priorities would have to be trimmed.

TAXES

To pay for much of the bill, the House Ways and Means Committee approved $2.1 trillion in tax boosts, mostly on the rich and corporations. Some details and numbers seem likely to change.

Biden, who’s promised to not increase taxes on people earning under $400,000, will probably get his proposal to raise the top individual income tax rate on the richest Americans to 39.6%. That would be up from 37% approved under former President Donald Trump.

But Democrats also want to raise other levies on the wealthiest. It’s unclear which proposals will survive and in what form.

For example, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has expressed interest in boosting taxes on the value of some large estates that heirs inherit. Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., omitted that from his panel’s plan.

Democrats want to provide tax credits for children, health care and child care costs and low-income workers. If the bill’s size shrinks, Democrats might save money by delaying, gradually phasing in or out or limiting some of those breaks. Some moderates say a proposed tax credit for buying electric vehicles shouldn’t go to higher-earning people.

Biden wants to raise the 21% corporate tax rate to 28% but may have to settle for around 25%. Democrats face other differences over taxes on corporate foreign income and stock buybacks.

MEDICARE

Three moderate Democrats blocked a House committee from approving a top priority for Biden and progressives: saving hundreds of billions by letting Medicare negotiate lower prices for pharmaceuticals it buys. Another committee approved the language, so it’s not dead.

Still, the plan is opposed by drug manufacturers and some moderates want to water it down.

Democrats planned to use the savings to pay for another progressive goal: new dental, vision and hearing Medicare coverage. If the drug-pricing language is diluted and produces less savings, it’s unclear how the Medicare expansion would be financed.

SALT AND IRS

In a town that loves acronyms, SALT, shorthand for state and local taxes, is on the table.

Democrats from high-tax coastal communities are demanding an increase in the current $10,000 limit on deductions taxpayers can claim for state and local taxes they pay.

With Pelosi unable to afford losing more than three Democratic votes, many think that deduction ceiling will be increased. To make up for the lost revenue, the IRS could be given extra money or banks might be required to report more financial transaction information to the IRS, ideas aimed at bolstering tax collections.

OTHER PRIORITIES

The House has proposed grants for power companies that move toward renewable fuels and fines on those that don’t, a pillar of the chamber’s climate change agenda. Manchin, chairman of the Senate energy committee and a fierce defender of his state’s coal industry, has told colleagues he opposes that.

The House has proposed a plan for mandatory family leave that’s significantly costlier than what Senate Democrats envision. And lawmakers await a decision from the Senate parliamentarian on whether language helping millions of immigrants remain in the U.S. violates budget rules and must be omitted.

TIMING

Last month, Pelosi told moderates that the House would consider their top priority, a separate $1 trillion bill financing road and other infrastructure projects, by Sept. 27.

In what seems a mutual political suicide pact, progressives have threatened to vote against that bill unless unenthusiastic moderates support the $3.5 trillion package. Ideally, Democratic leaders would love for both bills to be voted on together.

With so many loose ends, it seems highly unlikely the $3.5 trillion measure will be finished then. That’s raised questions about how Pelosi will keep her party’s antagonistic wings supportive of each other’s priority bills and how she will shepherd both to passage.

DEMOCRATS’ TWO SECRET WEAPONS

For one thing, a collapse of the effort would mean a jarring failure to enact their highest priorities, weakening their bid to retain their congressional majorities in next year’s elections. Every Democrat knows that.

Another is Pelosi herself, who’s proven deft at holding Democrats together and squeezing out votes she needs.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., cited both factors in an interview last week, describing what he tells Democrats.

“I’ve said everybody should be posturing and doing the best you can to stand up for your priorities, but in the final analysis you’re going to vote for this thing,” Yarmuth said. “And by the way, have you met Nancy Pelosi?”

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Tractor-trailer and vehicle on fire on WB 270 at Lindbergh

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Tractor-trailer and vehicle on fire on WB 270 at Lindbergh

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Members of the St. Louis County Police Central Precinct will be saying farewell to one of their own Thursday at the visitation for fallen police officer Antonio Valentine.

He was driving an unmarked police vehicle on Wednesday, December 1 when a black sedan traveling at a high rate of speed crashed into it near Crete Drive and Chambers Road in Bellefontaine Neighbors. Moments before the crash, Drug Unit Detectives attempted to stop the sedan for an investigation.

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Chicago Bears rookie Teven Jenkins is ‘trusting the process’ in his return from back surgery. For now, that means learning behind veteran Jason Peters.

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Teven Jenkins is content to learn from veteran Jason Peters for now after the Chicago Bears rookie recovered from back surgery: ‘I believe it’s the right path for me’

It would be understandable if Teven Jenkins’ patience were wearing thin.

Nearly 13 months have passed since the Chicago Bears offensive tackle has started a football game.

First a back injury at Oklahoma State prompted him to opt out of the final four games of his senior season in 2020. Then, after the Bears drafted him with the 39th pick in the spring, another back issue required surgery and sidelined him for the first three months of his rookie season.

Now, though Jenkins said he hasn’t felt this good physically since he was 18 years old, he remains sidelined behind nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, the 39-year-old veteran whom the Bears signed to fill in.

Jenkins, however, said he’s willing to take on whatever role the Bears want for him right now, even if that’s mostly just soaking up Peters’ advice.

“It’s all about trusting the process,” Jenkins said Wednesday in his first media session since June. “(Peters is) a (future) Hall of Famer. He’s greatness. So I have no problem sitting behind Jason Peters right now and learning — just learning.

“Because I trust what the Bears have in store for me and I trust what Coach (Juan) Castillo has for me and Coach (Matt) Nagy. I trust them all. And I believe it’s the right path for me.”

With Peters playing well and Jenkins still catching up from the time he missed, Nagy and Castillo said Jenkins will serve as depth at left tackle for now, with occasional playing time on special teams or in special situations. They could, of course, change their mind at any point, especially if the Bears are officially eliminated from playoff contention and want to see what Jenkins can do.

Jenkins said his heart was racing as he played two snaps on extra points Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals — his first NFL appearance after he returned to practice in mid-November.

“It’s my first game, and that’s like the big stage,” Jenkins said. “Of course I was nervous a little bit. … But it’s just one little hump I had to get over and just had to get acclimated.”

Jenkins had a tough few months to get to that point.

He said the symptoms of his back injury were different from when he had a back issue as a senior in college.

Unbearable nerve pain shot down his legs, making it difficult to do even little things such as take steps and get up from sitting. He said symptoms lingered between working in the offseason program and training camp, and he wonders if trying to work through it — as football players are used to doing — made it worse.

“I probably pushed myself out there a little bit faster because I had that urge — I wanted to get back on the field; I don’t care if it’s hurt,” Jenkins said. “And maybe I did push myself a little bit too much and made it a little worse, and that’s what ended up going on to get surgery.”

Jenkins said he and the Bears exhausted other options before deciding on the August surgery. Jenkins hopes it solved the issue so his back won’t be a problem down the road.

Before he could physically practice, Jenkins attended Bears meetings for a couple of hours a day, during which he would write down the plays to mentally roll through in his head later, sometimes with the help of his fiancee. When he was able to get up and move, he would walk through the scenarios at home.

The early days of his recovery, when he was at Halas Hall for only a couple of hours a day, were the most difficult because he was itching to compete.

“It was kind of hard at the beginning, but then I started realizing it was something out of my control,” Jenkins said. “Mentally, I got past that and said, ‘Look, if I can’t do this physically, I’m going to get better mentally in the playbook and schemes and games against people we’re playing with and just keep on doing that.’ And that’s how I got over it mentally.”

Castillo said it’s now a matter of gaining experience in practice and from watching Peters.

“Right now the thing for him is just getting off the ball and getting to a spot,” Castillo said. “I’m talking about pass protection. Run game is a little easier than pass pro. … The key is, at the snap count, being able to get off the ball, being able to explode and get to that spot as quick as he can.

“That’s something that Jason is really good at that we worked on a long time ago and that he’s really mastered — being able to get off that football. So for me, that really helps my teaching to be able to have somebody I worked with before that they can see exactly how it’s done.”

Jenkins is willing to take that teaching for now as he waits for his next opportunity.

“Personally, I’m still waiting to see how it all unfolds,” Jenkins said. “Right now I’m still backing up JP. … Great player, even greater person, and just being able to learn and get the knowledge he’s sharing with us, just having that advantage as my career goes on, I feel like that’s a great thing for me.”

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Health care chain zooms in on LoHi for second Denver location

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Health care chain zooms in on LoHi for second Denver location

ZoomCare is focusing its lens on the Denver market.

The Portland-based health care provider opened its second location in Denver, and fourth in Colorado, last month at 3210 Tejon St. in LoHi.

“Where we place our clinics is part of our proprietary secrets, but LoHi fits the profile of the neighborhoods we like to go into,” said CEO Jeff Fee.

“And with our entrée into Denver, it’s a growing market and has similar market characteristics of our existing markets. Our goal down the road is to become a national brand, and Denver seemed like a good fit for the ZoomCare model.”

ZoomCare, which started as a neighborhood clinic in 2006, has about 60 locations in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Colorado.

The healthcare provider moved into Colorado last year, when it opened a clinic at 1431 15th St. in LoDo and another in Boulder last year. The company added one in Arvada in June.

The company signed a lease for the 1,080-square-foot LoHi space in April. Endorphin Fitness previously operated there.

ZoomCare has around 1,500 patients in the Denver area, according to Fee. Each clinic has a staff of board-certified providers who cater to a broad range of illnesses and injuries. Patients are able to schedule their urgent, primary and preventive care services in the same day. Rather than having a primary doctor, patients can visit any of the team’s providers at any of its locations across the U.S.

There are also on-site labs and prescriptions, so patients can leave with medication in hand.

Courtesy of ZoomCare

ZoomCare has around 1,500 patients in the Denver area.

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