Democrats are considering ‘terrible possibility’ that reconciliation bill dies

The Senate Democrats left their weekly recess last Friday in a bad mood.

After weeks of negotiations, the majority of the Democratic assembly is still in standoff with Sens. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) On how much to invest in President Joe Biden’s agenda.

Democrats’ hopes of passing major legislation before the midterm elections rest on their ability to garner 50 votes in the Senate for the Build Back Better Act – a comprehensive package that would raise taxes on businesses and the wealthy to invest in climate policy and expand the country’s social welfare system. from health care and elderly care to childcare and higher education.

Manchin and Sinema initially seemed to be focused on the overall price of the bill, both arguing that $ 3.5 trillion, a figure agreed by moderates and progressives in the Senate Budget Committee, is too much spending. But the details of what they will cut are not clear. And the mystery feeds fears that the whole project will fail.

Is there a possibility – a terrible possibility, which would be so terrible for this country – that because two people refuse to do what 96% of the assembly want, nothing happens? There is that possibility, “Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said Friday. “I think it’s a minimal possibility, but that possibility exists.”

The White House has some time for pessimistic projections and argues instead that the process of negotiating massive legislation, whether it’s Obamacare in 2009 and 2010 or the GOP’s tax cuts in 2017, always involves ups and downs and negotiations with individual holdouts. Biden spent much of the past week meeting with various wings of the Democratic Party in hopes of making progress toward a final package.

Biden’s administration believes that the artificial deadline created by a planned vote in Parliament on the president’s bipartisan infrastructure agreement – a vote that ended up being delayed after progressives insisted that the agreement remain linked to the social spending package – resulted in in several advances towards an agreement. Some in the administration are hopeful that a deadline in late October to keep the country’s surface transport programs funded could result in yet another advance.

Sanders, who many Democrats invested in the various policies in the bill, said he is not ready to make concessions yet. But so far it’s not Manchin and Sinema either.

To cut off one of the bill’s proposed programs, e.g. Extending Medicare to cover dentistry and vision, or any number of proposed climate policies, risks losing the support of another legislator. Various individual senators are investing heavily in regulations that promote long-term care, child care, or the fight against climate change. Emotions run high.

“There’s a lot of stress, a lot of things at stake in terms of causes that many of us have been fighting for a lifetime,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Told reporters last week. “Imagine how I feel about the immigration issue. You can take the child tax issue to Booker, Bennet, Brown and others. It will be very personal. (Durbin referred to Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.)

It has been difficult to analyze what the Senate’s two most conservative Democrats want to see included in the package. Manchin, who has been a little more public with his demands, says he is concerned about the inflationary effects of adopting another major spending bill (although the White House chief economists have tried to eliminate these concerns).

Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) And Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) board an elevator on Capitol Hill, September 30, 2021.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) And Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) board an elevator on Capitol Hill, September 30, 2021.

Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Manchin has stated that he does not support universal programs and wants to target programs so that they only benefit the really needy. For example, he would like to fewer families to receive the extended tax deduction for children, limits it to those with significantly lower incomes.

Sinema, meanwhile, has been much more cagier with its demands. Her office cut reports that she wanted big cuts to climate-related policies. Other legislators has said she does not agree with the party’s proposal to reduce prescription drug costs or raise the corporate tax rate policies that not only have broad support in Congress, but that have overwhelming support among the American public. All that is really known is that Sinema wants to spend less.

Top-ranked Democrats are also in the dark.

“I’m really surprised why these two approach public policy the way they do,” the rep said. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, on Sinema and Manchin. “And I know some have said, ‘Well, the Democrats do not appreciate that there are different philosophies within the Democratic Party’ … I do not buy that at all. Sinema has been everything from a green party to a liberal to I do not know what. I do not know what drives her now and I can not buy ‘I just think it’s too much, too much money’. ”

Waters has been fighting for what would be a historic investment in the country’s housing infrastructure. The proposed policy would make major expansions of public housing and section 8 and encourage cities to improve zoning legislation with the aim of creating more affordable units.

But the proposed housing policy, like many others, reportedly risks being severely cut. If so, Waters sees no other option to make that kind of investment in housing.

“I’m worried about death,” said Waters, who worked with the rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) To send a letter from any Democrat in the Financial Services Committee to Biden, asking him to protect housing programs. “I’m totally worried and scared of the prospect of moving from $ 3.5 trillion to $ 2 trillion or $ 1.5 trillion and what that means in cuts.”

The same applies to policies such as paid leave. Lawyers and lawmakers see this as a one-in-one political generation chance to guarantee workers paid leave if they are starting a family or caring for a sick loved one. House Democrat aides say they are unsure what the Senate will do with the proposal.

Some consensus policies are almost certain to survive: some form of child tax deduction, for example, along with at least a few of the climate regulations. Despite Sinema’s opposition, many Democrats are still hopeful that the party will be able to live up to a promise to allow Medicare the opportunity to negotiate better prices with prescription drug companies. Other policy goals, including Biden’s proposal for free community college, face more uncertainty.

Some Democratic aides and think tanks have been trying to figure out how to reach a lower level of consumption, and have discussed whether it would be better to fully fund a smaller number of programs or to keep more programs alive while funding them. lower levels. But that debate remains academic until the party can decide how much to spend.

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