Democratic Congressmen seeking to make progress on President Biden’s Rebuild Better plan are beginning to face the agonizing challenge of squeezing their ambitious national social safety nets overhaul into a much smaller package needed to defeat key centrists.
On the second day, Democratic leaders and White House officials gathered on Capitol Hill in hopes of reaching agreement on the foundations of a social investment package that is expected to include paid family leave and subsidies for childcare, elderly care and community college. and to strengthen existing health programs among other progressive ambitions.
On Friday, Biden met behind closed doors with rank-and-file House Democrats to rally their support. He urged them to find a compromise around the price of a 10-year $ 2 trillion package, compared with the $ 3.5 trillion Democrats have been publicly discussing for months.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, hoped the structure agreement would garner support from a group of progressive supporters who said they would not vote for the first part of Biden’s plan, a bipartisan bill to repair national roads and bridges. upgrade other infrastructure until they can be confident that West Virginia centrist Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III and Arizona’s Kirsten Cinema will support the second part, the Social Security Bill.
Pelosi said earlier Friday that the House of Representatives would vote on a $ 1 trillion infrastructure plan, after a vote was postponed twice this week. But by the evening the voting was canceled again, no further steps were announced.
“While much progress has been made in negotiating an agreement between the House, Senate and White House on the Recovery Efficiency Act, it takes longer to complete this task,” Pelosi wrote in an overnight letter to fellow Democrats.
The speaker intended to use Thursday night’s expiration of the highway’s annual funding as a pressure point to vote on the infrastructure bill. But in a sign of how far the broader deal could be, the House of Representatives on Friday approved only a 30-day temporary stop bill.
Biden also did not say about the need for an immediate vote.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s six minutes, six days or six weeks. We’re going to do it, ”Biden said as he left the meeting in the basement of the Capitol.
The new roughly $ 2 trillion emphasis on the social spending plan came after Manchin first publicly announced Thursday that he could support no more than $ 1.5 trillion, which means Democrats will almost certainly have to significantly change the package. He cannot get into the Senate without the votes of Manchin and Cinema, assuming that all 50 Republicans in the House will continue to oppose him.
Democrats are just starting to grapple with the decision of whether to name the winners and losers from the original package in order to secure full funding for the remaining programs, or cut some of each, weakening them all.
If they choose to cut, they may choose to provide the greatest benefits only to the poorest Americans, which is a means test that Manchin strongly supports. Or they can limit the duration of the action. This option would create a potential rip-off in a few years when the benefits expire, putting them at risk if Democrats do not maintain control of Congress and the White House. Biden drew on this political dynamic in a closed-door meeting.
“He’s trying to tell people, think about what programs you need, and if we turn them on, if the Republicans ever take power again, let them try to undo it,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez (Los Angeles Democrat) said. ).
A third option — delaying the start of benefits to reduce costs — presents another challenge: Democrats won’t have much to talk about at home until next year’s midterm elections.
“There are many different ways in which you could continue all programs and even somewhat reliably, but through [delayed] – said Senator Tim Kane (Democratic Republic of Virginia), – said Senator Tim Kane (Democracy of Virginia). “Depending on the specific position, we will probably do all of this.”
But other Democrats argue that it would be better to go bold on fewer points. However, this can lead to serious internal party squabbles, as different factions agree on their priorities.
The delays in the implementation of programs are of particular concern. When Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, they postponed insurance subsidies for four years to save money – due to the complicated method of calculating costs by Congress – and to give time to create sophisticated insurance exchanges. But the delay left the proponents of the law politically vulnerable until public benefits kicked in.
“No matter what we put in there, I don’t want it to be three or four years before people feel it,” said Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside).
Democrats, at least in the Senate, are increasingly believing that they will have to meet with Manchin and Cinema wherever they land. “I don’t think we have a choice,” one Democratic said on anonymity to share internal discussions. But this is not a universal point of view.
“Every element of the current proposal, which is not final, is more than justified – from the economy of care, climate, immigration reform and everything in between,” said Senator Alex Padilla, California, who sees the $ 3.5 trillion package as a compromise to Senator Bernie Sanders’ original $ 6 trillion plan. “I understand that we may need to adjust the quantity, but every item in the package is important and urgent.”
The Extended Child Tax Credit, temporarily introduced in the Democrats’ COVID-19 Bill, has become a widespread favorite. Provisions to help combat climate change are also considered sacred to many, although some of the offerings are expensive.
In a document signed with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) on July 28, but released to the general public only on Thursday when it was published in Politico, Manchin revealed the parameters of a deal he would support. He listed “family and health” programs such as childcare and Obamacare tax credits, and identified parameters for climate provisions that he would support. He wants assurances that fossil fuel subsidies will not be lifted and that electric vehicle subsidies will be extended to hydrogen cars, helping his state with heavy coal.
Although Cinema was much less transparent about her interests, what she revealed publicly made it clear that she and Manchin had different interests. She focused on the climate, but Manchin did not. And she showed concern about inflation and tax hikes.
Pelosi does not hide that he wants to strengthen the tax breaks of the Affordable Care Act, which were also temporarily increased in the COVID-19 bill passed in March. Majority Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina specifically prioritized the creation of a new Medicaid program for poor people in states that did not take advantage of the ACA’s expansion opportunity.
Both are likely to go against the aspirations of the progressives led by Sanders (I-Vt.) To expand Medicare to include the vision, dentistry, and hearing that are likely to be popular with older people. In contrast, expanding Medicaid would help the very poor in mostly Republican states, while increasing ACA subsidies would help middle-income people across the country.
Choosing between these health clauses is likely to face additional constraints, as Democrats’ hopes of requiring drug makers to negotiate their Medicare prices are likely to be curtailed amid strong opposition from four House Democrats and several Senators. The negotiation package was to finance health expansion programs.
Democrats will hope Biden will help make that choice and provide political cover from those who lose out on the cut.
“Ultimately, since this is the president’s agenda, the president will have to come out and say, ‘This is what I agree with, and this is part of my agenda, and this is what I think,” Rep. Gregory said. W. Mix (DN.Y.).
And it’s clear that other Democrats will take Biden, Manchin and Cinema politically responsible for what’s left at the turn.
“I think part of the delicate dance for some people, skeptics who want to cut the president’s vision, is that his vision is very popular, so it took them a long time to actually come up with a counter-proposal because it’s hard to say:“ Well, I don’t want this popular thing to be there, ”Takano said. “I will be angry about things that some say you cannot have, but they have to tell me. I’m not going to make a choice. “