For months, Senator Joe Manchin’s refusal to sign President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill subjected the West Virginia Democrat to significant criticism from progressives in the party.
But Manchin is not the only one responsible for the deadlock that threatens to sink Biden’s legislative priority. Progressive Democrats, White House Biden, and party leaders have been unrealistic about how much spending could go through the tightly divided Congress.
The leaders of the left wing of the Democratic Party – and of the White House – cannot escape some responsibility for the deadlock. They have endangered BBB’s prospects by unrealistically demanding more spending than can pass a 50-50 Senate where administrative legislation needs votes from Arizona’s two independent moderate Democrats, Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona .
Progressives are demanding an immediate Senate vote, possibly to embarrass Manchin. Schumer said the Senate would vote earlier this year on “a revised version” of the House bill. If the goal is to pass BBB, these revisions better meet some of Manchin’s demands.
After all, this remains the best chance for Democrats to embrace popular parts of their agenda, like universal preschool, extra daycare support, expansion of Medicaid, expansion of Obamacare grants, and a range of environmental measures.
Manchin is in favor of fewer, fully funded programs for the 10 years of the bill; The Washington Post says they include universal preschool, Obamacare grants, and environmental measures. Washington Representative Suzanne DelBene, chair of the centrist NDP coalition, supports a similar, narrower approach. This would force Democratic leaders to make previously avoided choices and eliminate some more expensive proposals.
We could extend the child tax credit passed earlier this year, which many Democrats support. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said full funding would cost $ 1.6 trillion over the decade. The preschool and child care provisions would cost $ 752 billion, he said.
That wouldn’t leave room to expand Obamacare and Medicaid subsidies, include environmental provisions, or add paid family and medical leave.
Biden’s election and the conquest of two seats in the Georgia Senate last January encouraged many Democrats to believe that he could compete with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson in delivering large social programs. span. Congress has already passed two important measures, Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion relief bill to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and the $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan measure to address long ignored infrastructure needs. . But the more expensive reconciliation bill has always encountered problems.
The House finally passed, after multiple delays caused by Democratic internal struggles. But he stalled in the Senate, due to Manchin’s objections and opposition to the tax and immigration provisions the House added to get the necessary votes.
The recent acrimony increases uncertainty over whether Democrats can use their current control over Congress and the White House to embrace this key part of their platform.
Progressives must recognize that even a scaled-down bill would provide a platform of achievement for Democrats to run in the midterm election. Any bill would improve the lives of millions of Americans more than any bill.
Carl P. Leubsdorf is a columnist for Dallas Morning News.