Democratic feuds in divided US Congress complicate Biden’s agenda

A view of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, United States, December 21, 2020. REUTERS / Ken Cedeno

Democrats who tightly control the US Congress will face a double threat to pushing President Joe Biden’s agenda forward as they return to Washington after a hiatus this week: united opposition from Republicans and feuds within their own ranks.

They need almost complete unity on goals and tactics to push forward Biden’s proposed $ 4 trillion in spending, after passing a $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief measure in March with a maneuver that circumvented Senate rules requiring a supermajority for most laws.

An expanded child tax credit, which was passed as part of this package, is an issue that could shatter their tight 218-212 majority in the House of Representatives and a more fragile 50-50 split in the Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie- breaking vote.

Progressives are organizing a power game to make the one-year expansion permanent, but some moderate Democratic senators have raised concerns.

“It’s about seizing the moment. The time is right,” said Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro, chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and one of the many liberals who rejected Biden’s offer in compromise. extend the extended child tax credit only until 2025..

The story explains DeLauro’s sense of urgency: The next congressional election is less than 18 months away, and usually a presidential party loses seats in the midterm vote after taking office. If Republicans regain a majority in either house of Congress, they could block Biden’s agenda.

Indeed, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in his home state of Kentucky last week that this was his goal.

“One hundred percent of our goal is to stop this new administration,” McConnell said.

House Republicans, meanwhile, have their own fight coming up this week as they vote on whether to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from the leadership for her dismissal of the former president’s false allegations of electoral fraud. Donald Trump. Read more

“DEFICITS AND COSTS”

The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that the one-year extension of the credit will cost $ 110 billion.

Progressives argue that a permanent extension will ease the cost to taxpayers by helping to keep poor families, especially minorities, away from certain government supports. They also indicated that they were prepared to consider further cost offsets.

Still worried about Senator Bernie Sanders’ failed effort to include an increase in the federal minimum hourly wage to $ 15 in the March bill, Progressives see many of the same moderate senators as a likely impediment to the tax credit.

Democratic Senator Tom Carper said he needed to study the proposal, but expressed financial concerns, saying: “I always think about deficits and costs … it’s in my DNA.”

Likewise, Senator Jeanne Shaheen said, “We need to look at how the child tax credit works this year and make sure we have data to support that it will benefit children.

The extension will be just one of many political battles Democrats will have to resolve in the coming months when they agree on what to do in Biden’s sweeping spending bills.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he knew Republicans might decide to sit on the sidelines again and watch Democrats struggle to embrace Biden’s agenda on their own.

That would require using “budget reconciliation,” which temporarily suspends the 60-vote super-majority needed to advance most laws in the 100-member Senate. The tactic was used to propel Biden’s first COVID-19 relief package to victory. For this to work, each of the 50 Democratic-controlled Senate seats must vote together.

This is what progressives like Senator Sherrod Brown urged.

“We rarely have an opportunity like this in history and we have to seize it,” Brown told reporters.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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