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Jen Psaki says Biden is FOR last-ditch billionaire's tax - but won't say it will survive

President Joe Biden supports a Senate Democratic plan to tax billionaires, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday – although she stopped short of saying whether the major revenue-raiser would even be in a final reconciliation bill.

Psaki made the decision shortly before a report that House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Richard Neal said negotiators had dropped the idea. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden chimed in with his own view: 'Last time I looked, the United States Senate has a say, too. We’re continuing to work with members,' he said, Business Insider reported.

She also vouched for the legality of the proposal for the government to get at the vast fortunes amassed by about 700 people – whose wealth resides in huge stock holdings they have sometimes held for decades. 

President Joe Biden supports a Senate Democratic plan to tax billionaires, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday – although it was unclear if it is part of a Build Back Better package being negotiated

'We're not going to support anything we don't think is legal. But I will tell you the president supports the billionaire's tax. He looks forward to working with Congress and Wyden to make sure the highest income Americans pay their fair share,' she said. 

Psaki talked up the proposal after a group senators announced agreement on it – with even cryptic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) announcing her approval.

Negotiators desperate for revenue to assemble Biden's 'Build Back Better' plan turned to the billionaire's tax after Sinema weighed in against other more traditional tax hikes: raising the top corporate rate, raising the top income tax rate, and other measures. 

'The president remains open to going up to the Hill. We haven't made a decision to do that and we are making decisions hour-by-hour on what would be most constructive to move things forward,' she said. 

Biden met with Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin in the Oval Office Tuesday, Psaki said.

Negotiators need to find revenue sources after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) reportedly came out against corporate and individual rate hikes

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., left, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., board an elevator as they leave a meeting, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington

President Joe Biden heads to Rome Thursday

She said negotiators 'continue to make progress on finalizing details' – with top administration aides in the Capitol Wednesday.

Her comments came as Sen. Majority Leader Charles Schumer of New York said a deal was 'within arm's length' – but Manchin spoke critically of the billionaire's tax and instead called for a 'patriotic' tax of 15 per cent.

Psaki did not say for certain which revenue raisers would be in the bill. The billionaire's tax, meant to get at assets held by billionaire investors who don't take much ordinary income or sell many shares that get taxed, could bring in about $250 billion over a decade.

It has backing from Wyden, the Senate Finance Committee chair. 

She said the package would be a 'historic investment' – although negotiators are reportedly looking at $1.5 to $1.75 trillion, down from a $3.5 trillion proposal in the budget resolution.

Psaki characterized negotiations as being about 'nitty gritty details.'

'But it's only 1:30, we've got some time,' she said Wednesday afternoon. The idea has been criticized by billionaire Elon Musk. 

'I anticipate that any new unrealized capital gains taxes will slowly make their way down to middle class retirement investments over the next several years. It will start with billionaires, then eventually millionaires, then the modest investments will get hit possibly within a decade,' he wrote Monday.

Biden is set to fly to Rome on Thursday morning.