West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin apparently inflicted a terrible setback on President Biden’s agenda on Sunday, when he told Fox News’ Bret Baier that he could not support the version of the Build Back Better Act passed by the House last month. While Democrats were rightly frustrated with the way Mr Manchin expressed his concerns, he raised a valid criticism: constantly raising since this summer.
Other Democrats may not realize it, but Mr Manchin may have given them a gift. They should have gone back to the drawing board months ago, when it first became clear that their budget gadget was turning the bill into a confusing mess. Now they’ll have to – and if they revise the bill to reduce the number of programs they offer while making the ones they offer permanent and easier for Americans to navigate, it could bring Democrats a change of heart. sustainable policy and the political victory they have as well. Desperately needed.
Democrats had been slashing the bill for months in an attempt to meet Mr Manchin’s demand that it cost less than $ 2 trillion over the next decade. But rather than focus on a few top priorities, they stuck almost every major social program Mr Biden had proposed in the bill and relied on arbitrary expiration dates to make it look cheaper. Therefore, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, these programs would cost over $ 4.7 trillion if it is made permanent, as all supporters of the bill clearly want.
This structure prepares Democrats for failure. Expanding these programs without increasing the national debt would likely require a tax increase of An additional $ 3 trillion over the next decade, which would be extremely difficult to do, especially after Democrats incorporated any tax hikes they could get consensus on into the Build Back Better Act. If Democrats can’t agree on how to continue paying for their major social programs, the only alternative – besides breaking their promise not to increase the deficit – would be to allow those programs to expire afterwards. a few years.
Not only would this scenario deprive new families of tens of thousands of dollars in benefits they would have received had they had children a few years earlier, but many families may never receive those benefits in the first place. Many Build Back Better Act programs require state and local governments to implement them, and local officials on both sides. have already said that they may not commit resources to programs for which federal support may cease within a few years of their inception.
Will Democrats face a mid-term erasure?
Unlike those on the left who are now unleashing their just anger on M. Manchin, I have long sympathized with his objections to this approach, as well as his concerns about inflation and the unsustainable growth of our national debt.
But I think abandoning Mr. Biden’s agenda would be a huge mistake. There is a clear path forward to bring forward a historically important and fiscally responsible bill that supports working families, expands access to affordable health care and combats the climate crisis. If the president wants this bill to be his legacy, he must urge Congress to stop playing games with expiration dates and do fewer things better, starting by making them permanent.
Both progressives and centrists will have to give up certain items on their legislative wishlists. Many laudable political ambitions, such as creating a national paid family leave program or extending a recent expansion of the child tax credit, which has already lifted millions children out of poverty, will need to be drastically reduced or eliminated altogether. But the policies that will be adopted will be more successful, more popular and more durable therefore, which can help lay the groundwork for developing them in the future. It would also leave Democrats with a bill that is more focused and easier to explain to voters than the current version, which Republicans are already touting as a “progressive handbag. “
In October, my organization, the Progressive Policy Institute, released a plan for such a targeted package which prioritized expanding the child tax credit, universal access to preschool, strengthening the law on affordable care and tackling climate change. This approach has now rekindled the interest of the main Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who heads the Senate finance committee and will be responsible for drafting many key provisions of the final bill, released a declaration Sunday, listing three top spending priorities: the expanded child tax credit, subsidies for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and incentives to reduce carbon emissions from all energy sources .
On the same day, Representative Suzan DelBene from Washington, who chairs the 97-member NDP coalition that will be crucial to the passage of the final bill in the House, released an declaration embracing almost identical priorities and reiterating his coalition’s preference to “do some things right for longer”, which is also the approach Mr Manchin has demanded.
The only major sticking point now appears to be the expansion of the child tax credit. Last week M. Manchin would have told Mr Biden he would support a $ 1.8 trillion package that omitted credit but included long-term versions of Mr Wyden and Ms DelBene’s other priorities, as well as a universal preschool program . These combined policies would cost around $ 1.2 trillion over 10 years, which means that if Democrats can compromise on additional priorities that cost less than $ 600 billion, let it be a expanded child tax credit amended or other permanent programs, they will have produced a transformative bill that meets the parameters supported by Mr. Manchin. It is important to note that these permanent policies would not increase budget deficits or inflationary pressures, as they can be fully paid for using only the tax increases and other offsets included in the Build Back Better Act.
Democrats have a unique opportunity to improve American society, not just for a few years, but permanently. This would give them clear victories that they could point to with voters, which would lay the groundwork for future success. But for such a package to cross the finish line, progressives and centrists – including both the White House and the West Virginia senator – must stop. pointing fingers, come back to the negotiating table and compromise. America cannot afford the Biden program to fail.
Ben Ritz (@BudgetBen) is the director of the Center for Funding America’s Future at the Progressive Policy Institute.
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