Progressive leaders in Congress are warning their colleagues against a “false choice” about what to keep or cut as Democrats cut back on President Joe Biden’s now $ 2 trillion package of social services and climate change strategies.
In a letter sent Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders argue that the package should not be limited simply as lawmakers prefer. centrists, but should remain Biden’s broader vision, but for less than 10 years. “Shorter transformational investments” that could be started quickly and then revised.
“There has been much talk in recent weeks about the commitments needed to enact this transformative agenda,” Washington Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal and other leaders of the 96-member progressive caucus wrote in their letter, obtained by The Associated Press.
“We have been told that we can adequately fund a small amount of investments or legislate broadly, but only have a superficial impact in the short term. We would say that this is a false option. “
It is a debate that has been raging behind the scenes and has spread to the public as Biden and his allies in Congress have reached another stalemate, working to chisel out what had been a $ 3.5 billion package expanding to the sum still sizable at around $ 2 trillion, to be paid for in tax increases for corporations and the wealthy.
With the calendar approaching a new deadline, Pelosi warned that “tough decisions” must be made to reach consensus before a self-imposed October. 31 deadline for approval.
Republicans are against the package. So Biden and his party must deliberate among themselves, with all eyes still on two key reducers, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, whose votes are crucial in the evenly divided Senate.
But that’s raising tough questions: Should Biden keep the scope of his proposals: free child care and community college? Dental, vision and hearing aid benefits for seniors – or narrow them down to some key health and education programs that could be more permanent?
Progressives have so far been influential in the debate, but unless Manchin and Sinema join in, there is no clear path to a deal, risking its collapse.
In their letter Wednesday, the progressives said their constituents depend on them to deliver on the far-reaching package of health care, child care, family leave, education and other investments, including those aimed at fighting climate change.
“If you are given the option of legislating narrowly or broadly, we strongly recommend that you choose the latter option,” they wrote.
The idea, the progressives said, is to start the programs “as quickly as possible,” but for shorter periods, with legislators free to campaign for their renewal in the future.
“This will help defend our party’s ability to govern and establish a track record of success that will pave the way for a long-term extension of benefits,” they wrote.
They also argued against linking the programs to low or modest income levels, saying that all Americans should be able to benefit.
Despite the growing number of progressives in the House, Pelosi appears to side with some of the more centrist lawmakers, who are among those most at risk of losing their seats, and the party’s little control over the majority, in the next year’s midterm elections.
“Overwhelmingly, the guidance I’m getting from members is to do less well,” Pelosi said in her own letter this week to colleagues.
Moderate lawmakers have argued that it would be better to narrow the scope of the legislation and make the changes more durable.
Washington State Representative Suzan DelBene, chair of the Coalition of New Democrats, made that case during a meeting of moderate lawmakers last month at the White House.
The group has focused on just a few top priorities, including two that came up in the COVID-19 relief packages: extending child tax credits that are funneling around $ 300 a month to most families, but expiring. in December, and make permanent superior health. care subsidies offered during the pandemic to those who purchased their insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Those moderates also want to expand the ACA to states, largely those run by Republican governors, who have rejected it under previous federal funding proposals.
Time is running out for the president on his national policy initiative, which has consumed much of his irregular first year in office.
Biden’s approval rating has dropped after a turbulent summer and impatience is growing, particularly among House members heading into tough elections and eager to show voters an achievement.
The talks continue in silence with Manchin and Sinema, who have enraged their colleagues by holding up the package without making it entirely clear what they are willing to support or reject.
Manchin’s priorities are largely in line with his party on the fiscal side of the equation, according to a memo he shared over the summer with Senate Majority Leader Schumer, but they diverge on spending.
Democrats propose raising corporate taxes to the 26.5% rate in the House bill, and the maximum individual income tax rate to 39.6% if they earn more than $ 400,000 a year, or $ 450,000. dollars for couples.