The abbreviations sound a bit childish: BIF and BBB. But what is behind it and what is at stake is not at all. On the contrary: the six letters stand for two legislative packages that are to be passed by the US Congress in the coming days. The success of this project depends no less than the success of Joe Biden’s entire presidency.
First the BIF: The abbreviation stands for Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. What is meant by this is a Biden-driven law that envisages spending $1.2 trillion – yes, $1.2 trillion – to repair and expand US infrastructure. The money is to be used to modernize roads, bridges and railway tracks, airports, ports and train stations, as well as electricity and water networks.
Several billion dollars are to flow into the construction of charging stations for electric cars and fast internet lines. Biden is not only hoping for a complete overhaul of the partially dilapidated public infrastructure in the USA from this gigantic increase in spending. He also advertises that the investments serve climate protection and at the same time well-paid industrial jobs are created.
Taxes on high incomes should increase
In fact, it would not be a problem for the Democrats to get this spending package through Congress this week. The Senate passed the BIF back in August, by a vote of 69 to 30. In addition to the Democrats, 19 Republicans also voted for the law, hence the name: bipartisan means bipartisan.
Now it would be the turn of the House of Representatives, in which the Democrats have a narrow majority. If they voted unanimously for the BIF, Biden could sign the bill into law the next day. Initially, the vote on the BIF was scheduled for this Tuesday, then it was postponed to Thursday. It will probably take place, but how it will end is unclear.
This in turn has to do with the second law, the BBB. This abbreviation stands for Build Back Better Agenda. Behind this is a package that is as expensive as it is ambitious: Biden wants to spend 3.5 trillion dollars over the next ten years – yes, 3,500 billion – to create something like a modern social network in the USA based on the European model, that not only supports the poorest, but also supports millions of middle-class families.
For example, the BBB is to set up child benefits, and the state is also to finance places in kindergartens. Young adults will be able to attend community colleges free of charge for two years, and new health insurance benefits are planned for seniors. To finance it, Biden wants to raise corporate taxes and taxes on high incomes, including those from stock ownership.
Polls plummet over Afghanistan debacle
The bottom line is that the BBB would amount to a kind of social democratization of the USA. And that’s exactly what Biden wants. For him, these two laws are essential. Making post-pandemic America a country that can absorb such shocks, empowering society to resist authoritarian trends, showing citizens that democracy delivers jobs, security and dignity — that is at the core of Bidens presidency.
Biden’s poll numbers are currently falling because of the Afghanistan debacle and the resurgence of the Covid pandemic. Should the BIF and BBB fail, it could irreparably damage the president and with him the Democrats, who will have to fight hard for their congressional majorities in 2022 anyway.
It’s no surprise that Republicans don’t want to go along with Biden’s Build Back Better plan. After all, they always warn voters that Democrats want higher taxes and more social spending. But theoretically, the Democrats don’t need the Republicans. Biden’s party has a majority in the House of Representatives, while the Democrats hold 50 of the 100 seats in the Senate. With the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, they would have 51 and could pass the BBB at any time. The Democrats even through one as Reconciliation known procedural trick ruled out that the Republicans can stop the BBB by means of a long debate, a so-called filibuster.
The fact that the BIF is still stuck in the House of Representatives and the BBB in the Senate has more to do with the inner-democratic factional struggles between leftists and centrists than with the possibility of Republican blockades. In short, the front line is as follows: The left-liberals, a significant part of the democratic faction in the House, love the social reformist BBB. They only want to vote for the more technical BIF in the House at the same time as the BBB goes through the Senate; or if there is at least a binding agreement on a package that is acceptable to them.
In the Senate, however, two conservative Democrats are blocking: Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona. The $3.5 trillion price tag is too big for them, and they don’t want to raise taxes.
The result is a stalemate. Both left and centrist Democrats are stubborn, both sides would rather risk wrecking their own president and party than backing down – a frustrating situation for Biden. And no one will defect from the Republicans to save Biden’s agenda, he has to do it himself. It is unclear how this impasse can be broken. The only thing that is clear is that Biden has an interesting week and a lot of work ahead of him.