Progressives Bow to Reality of Diminished Hopes for Agenda
(Bloomberg) -- Progressive Democrats are increasingly resigned to accepting a far-narrower version of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda than they had hoped to pass when the administration took office.
Any agreement to trim programs from President Joe Biden’s economic package would mark a sharp reversal for progressives Democrats, who have already settled for a bill a quarter of the size of their original $10 trillion proposal. But several House progressives suggested in interviews this week that a smaller bill was better than no bill at all in the face of entrenched opposition from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin to their more expansive plans.
“Senator Manchin has to tell us what he is for,” Representative Dan Kildee of Michigan said Tuesday. “It doesn’t mean we are going to be happy about it. But we can’t take our unhappiness out on the people who could benefit from what could get done.”
Wednesday’s Consumer Price Index report showing 7% year-over-year inflation will likely stiffen Manchin’s resistance to broad new spending bill, putting House Democrats in an even weaker negotiating position. Manchin has objected to the legislation in part because of concerns that more federal spending will sustain surging in prices. The West Virginia Democrat called the inflation report “very, very troubling.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday negotiations continue and an agreement can be reached on the legislation. The bill includes funding for health care, climate change, housing, child care and education.
Manchin, whose vote is pivotal in the 50-50 Senate, opposes the overall size of the House-passed $2.2 trillion measure as well as specific programs such as paid leave and a broad-based child tax credit. He’s previously outlined a $1.7 trillion plan, but it’s not clear whether he still is offering it as an alternative.
Manchin also doesn’t support the House’s plan -- pushed by progressives -- to have a large number of programs funded for a limited timespan in order to hold down the total cost of the package. Manchin has said he would favor fewer programs funded for a decade.
Representative Chuy Garcia, vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said he is open to some adjustments, but would be “reluctant” to cut paid leave from the package.
“I like the framework but I’ll leave the door open to some possible movement,” Garcia said in an interview Tuesday. “And if we need to compromise on that I’m open to it but there’s got to be good reason for it.”
Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal said Wednesday it is up to Biden to deliver on what has already been negotiated and “make sure Senator Manchin keeps his word.”
“We don’t want to restart a negotiation” Jayapal said in an interview Wednesday, “We want to go back to that framework. And, you know, make sure that we get that framework done. So, that’s what I’ve said to the White House.”
Lacking any Republican support, all Senate Democrats must support the measure to squeak it through using the reconciliation process, which requires a simple majority rather than the usual 60-vote threshold for legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to bring a revised version of the package to the floor early this year, likely after Democrats attempt to call up voting rights legislation in the coming days.
House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth said Tuesday House leadership is awaiting Senate action and has not yet discussed their next steps.
Yarmuth suggested Democrats can keep the package close to $1.7 trillion by focusing on climate change, the expanded child tax credit and a few other priorities. The difference, he said, would be funding fewer programs for a longer period of time, as Manchin wants. It’s an idea that House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro also supports.
DeLauro said Tuesday said she’s known for a long time that Democrats would likely “consolidate in several areas that can have the biggest impact.”
Aside from opposing paid leave, Manchin wants a work requirement for the expanded child tax credit that expired in December. The requirement would eliminate the benefit for those who don’t have any income tax liability.
Yarmuth said he believes Democrats can reach a compromise on that. But House Democrats can’t afford to lose more than four votes, meaning they must reach a compromise that appeases progressives in that chamber.
House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, a progressive from Massachusetts, had a pointed response when asked how how he would get Biden’s agenda back on track.
“I’m lighting candles at church,” McGovern said.
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