Progressives warn against ‘false choice’ in Biden bill trims
WASHINGTON(AP) — As Democrats cut back President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion climate change and social service package, progressive leaders in Congress are warning their colleagues about a “false decision”.
The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus wrote Wednesday to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, arguing that the package should not be reduced as centrist lawmakers would prefer. Instead, they urge Congressmen to keep the larger vision of Biden, but for fewer years than 10 — “shorter and transformative investments” that can be made quickly and then re-evaluated.
“Much was said in recent weeks regarding the compromises required to enact the transformative agenda,” wrote Rep. Pramila Japal, D-Wash. and other leaders from the 96-member progress caucus. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press.
” We have been told we can either adequately finance a few investments or legislate widely, but only make short-term, shallow impacts. We would argue that this is a false choice.”
It’s a debate that has been raging behind the scenes and spilling into public as Biden and his allies in Congress have reached another stalemate, working to chisel what had been a sprawling $3.5 trillion package to the still sizable sum of about $2 trillion — to be paid for with tax increases for corporations and the wealthy.
With the deadline approaching, Pelosi warned that “difficult choices” must be made in order to reach consensus before the Oct. 31 deadline.
Republicans have declared their opposition to the package. Biden and his party now have to discuss the matter among themselves. All eyes are still on Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Silena of Arizona, who are key Senate holdouts.
This is leading to difficult questions. Should Biden retain his broad proposals (free childcare and community college; hearing, vision, and dental benefits for seniors) or should he scale back on key education and health programs that could become more permanent?
The progressives have enjoyed a strong lead in the debate so far. However, unless Sinema and Manchin join, there is no clear way to a deal. This could risk its collapse.
The progressives stated Wednesday that their constituents depend on them to deliver the comprehensive package of investments in health care, childcare and family leave.
“If you have to choose between legislating narrowly and broadly, we encourage you strongly to choose the latter,” they wrote.
The progressives suggested that the programs should be started “as soon as possible” but for shorter periods of time, and lawmakers can continue to campaign for renewal.
“This would help to make the case for the party’s ability and track record of success, which will allow for long-term extensions of benefit.” they wrote.
They also opposed linking the programs to incomes low or moderate, saying that all Americans should be eligible to benefit.
Despite the increasing number of progressives in Congress, Pelosi appears to be siding with some of the more centrist legislators, who are at greatest risk of losing their seats and the party’s narrow hold on the majority in the next year’s midterm elections.
“Overwhelmingly, the guidance I am receiving from members is to do fewer things well,” Pelosi said in her own letter this week to colleagues.
The moderate lawmakers have argued that it would better to narrow the scope of the legislation and make any changes more lasting.
Rep. During a meeting with moderate lawmakers at the White House last month, Suzan DelBene, Washington state’s chair of the New Democrat Coalition made this case.
The group has focused on just a few main priorities, including two that emerged in the COVID-19 aid packages — extending the child tax credits that are funneling about $300 a month to most families but expire in December, and making permanent the higher health care subsidies that were offered during the pandemic to those who buy their insurance through the Affordable Care Act. These moderates want to expand the ACA in states that have rejected it under federal funding proposals, mainly those run by Republican governors.
Time is running out for President Obama’s signature domestic policy initiative. It has taken up much of his first year in office. After a stormy summer,
Biden has a lower approval rating. This is causing impatience among House members, who are eager to prove voters that they have accomplished something.
Conversations continue quietly with Manchin and Sinema, who have infuriated their colleagues by holding up the package while not making fully clear what they are willing to support or reject.
Manchin is aligned with his party’s tax priorities, according to a memo that he shared with Senate Majority Leader Schumer over the summer. However, they differ on spending.
The Democrats propose raising corporate taxes to the 26.5% rate in the House bill, and the top individual income tax rate to 39.6% on earning beyond $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for couples.