Monday, October 18, 2021

Progressives warn against ‘false choice’ in Biden bill trims

WASHINGTON (AP) – Progressive leaders in Congress warn colleagues against “making the wrong choice” about what to keep or cut as Democrats cut President Joe Biden’s $ 2 trillion social services and climate change policy package.

In a letter Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Biden, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the leaders of the Progressive Congress argue that the package should not just be narrowed, as centrist lawmakers prefer, but should instead be retained as Biden’s broader vision, but not more than 10 people. years – “shorter, transformative investments” that could be quickly started and then returned to.

“Much has been done in recent weeks to make the compromises needed to implement this transformation agenda,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington, and other leaders of the 96-member progressive faction wrote in a letter received by the Associated Press.

“We were told that we can either adequately finance a small amount of investment, or pass broad legislation, but have only a shallow short-term impact. We would argue that this is the wrong choice. “

This is the debate that rages behind the scenes and spills over into the general public as Biden and his allies in Congress hit another dead end, working to turn the sprawling $ 3.5 trillion package into a still sizable sum of about $ 2 trillion, which need to pay. since with higher taxes for corporations and the rich.

As the calendar draws closer to a new date, Pelosi warned that “tough decisions” would need to be made before the October 31st deadline for consensus to be reached.

The Republicans are strongly against this package. Thus, it remains for Biden and his party to confer with each other, and all views on two key opponents – Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kirsten Cinema from Arizona, whose votes are decisive in the equally divided Senate.

But this raises difficult questions: should Biden continue with his offerings of free childcare and community college; benefits for dental, visual and hearing aids for seniors – or be limited to a few key health and education programs that could be more permanent?

Progressive supporters have had a lot of influence in the debate so far, but unless Manchin and Sinema join the deal, there is no clear path to the deal that could lead to its collapse.

In a letter on Wednesday, proponents of progress said their constituents were dependent on them to provide a wide range of health services, childcare, family vacations, education and other investments, including to combat climate change.

“If you have a choice between narrow or broad legislation, we strongly recommend that you choose the latter,” they wrote.

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The idea, according to progressives, is to start programs “as soon as possible,” but for a shorter time frame, so that legislators can campaign for renewals in the future.

“This will help substantiate our party’s ability to govern and establish a track record of success that will pave the way for long-term benefit expansion,” they wrote.

They also argued against linking programs to low or moderate income levels, arguing that all Americans should be able to benefit.

Despite growing ranks of progressive supporters in the House of Representatives, Pelosi appears to have sided with some of the more centrist lawmakers, who are among the most at risk of losing seats and the party’s weak majority influence in next year’s midterm elections.

“The vast majority of the advice I get is about doing fewer things well,” Pelosi said in her own letter this week to colleagues.

Moderate legislators argued that it would be better to narrow the scope of the legislation and make any changes longer.

Washington State Rep. Susan DelBene, chair of the New Democratic Coalition, said this during a meeting of moderate lawmakers last month at the White House.

The group focused on just a few top priorities, including two that appeared in COVID-19 relief packages – an extension of tax credits for children that send most families around $ 300 a month, but which expire in December, and to make permanent higher medical care. subsidies that were offered during the pandemic to those who buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act. These moderate supporters also want to extend the ACA to states, mostly those run by Republican governors who rejected it under previous federal funding proposals.

The president has less time to spend on his signed domestic policy initiative, which took up much of his hectic first year in office.

Biden’s approval rating has declined after a tumultuous summer, and impatience is growing, especially among members of the House of Representatives, who are entering a tough election and eager to show their constituencies to voters.

The conversation continues quietly with Manchin and Cinema, who have infuriated their colleagues by lifting the package, but have not made clear what they are willing to support or reject.

According to a memo he shared with Senate Majority Leader Sumer over the summer, Manchin’s priorities are largely in line with his party on the tax side of the equation, but at odds with spending.

Democrats are proposing to raise corporate taxes to 26.5% in the House of Representatives bill, and the maximum personal income tax rate to 39.6% on incomes over $ 400,000 a year, or $ 450,000 for couples.

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