Progressives warn against ‘false choice’ in Biden bill trims

WASHINGTON , -- Progressive leaders in Congress warn colleagues against a false choice over what to keep and cut, as Democrats reduce President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion climate change strategy and social services package.

Progressives warn against ‘false choice’ in Biden bill trims

WASHINGTON , -- Progressive leaders in Congress warn colleagues against a false choice over what to keep and cut, as Democrats reduce President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion climate change strategy and social services package.

The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Biden, and Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, wrote Wednesday to Nancy Pelosi. They argue that the package should not be reduced as centrist lawmakers would prefer. Instead, they suggest keeping the larger vision of Biden for fewer years, but for "shorter, more transformative investments" that can be quickly re-evaluated.

"Much has been done in recent weeks regarding the compromises necessary for enacting this transformative agenda," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and other leaders from the 96-member progressive Caucus in their letter obtained by The Associated Press.

"We were told we could either adequately fund a few investments or legislate broadly. But, this would only have a short-term effect. This is a false choice, we would argue.

This is a heated debate that has been going on behind closed doors and spilling into the public. Biden and his allies at Congress have reached an additional stalemate, trying to reduce what was a massive $3.5 trillion package to the still substantial sum of approximately $2 trillion. These tax increases will be used to pay for the taxes for corporations and the rich.

Pelosi warned that "difficult choices" must be made in order to reach consensus before the Oct. 31 deadline.

Republicans are determined to oppose the package. Biden and his party will 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 stouts in the evenly divided Senate.

This is raising difficult questions. Should Biden retain his broad proposals -- free childcare, community college, and dental, vision, and hearing aid benefits for seniors; or should he scale back on key education and health programs that could become more permanent?

Although the progressives have held a strong lead in the debate so far, it is unlikely that there will be a clear path to a deal unless Sinema and Manchin join. Otherwise, it could end up being a disaster.

The progressives stated Wednesday in a letter that their constituents depend on them to deliver the comprehensive package of health care and childcare, family leave, education, and other investments including those fighting climate change.

They wrote that they strongly encouraged them to choose the latter if given the choice of legislating narrowly or broad.

According to the progressives, the idea is to start programs as quickly and for shorter periods of time. This will allow lawmakers to continue their campaigns for renewal.

They wrote that this would help to make the case for the party's ability in government and set a track record for success that will allow for long-term extension benefits.

They also opposed linking the programs with low or modest income levels and argued 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 hold on the majority in next year’s midterm elections.

Pelosi wrote this week to colleagues, "Overwhelmingly the guidance I am getting from members is for me to do fewer and better things."

Moderate lawmakers argue that it is better to limit the legislation's scope and make any changes more permanent.

Washington state representative Suzan DelBene, who is chair of the New Democrat Coalition made this case at a meeting with moderate lawmakers last month at The White House.

The group has concentrated on a handful of main priorities. These include the extension of child tax credits, which funnel about $300 per month to most families, but expire in December. Also, making permanent higher health care subsidies, which were provided during the pandemic to people who bought their insurance through 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.

The president is running out of time to complete his signature domestic policy initiative. It has taken up much of his first year in office.

After a stormy summer, Biden's approval rating has dropped. Impatience is growing among House members, especially those who are eager to demonstrate voters their accomplishments.

Conversations continue with Sinema and Manchin, who are infuriating their colleagues by holding back the package while not making it clear what they will support or decline.

According to a memo Manchin shared with Senate Majority Leader Schumer over the summer, Manchin's priorities align with his party on tax, but differ on spending.

The Democrats propose increasing corporate taxes to the 26.5% rate as part of the House bill and raising the top individual income tax rate, to 39.6%, for earnings above $400,000 per year. This would be $450,000 for couples.

Updated Date: 16 October 2021, 15:34

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