“We have been told that we can either adequately fund a small number of investments or legislate broadly, but only make a shallow, short-term impact. We would argue that this is a false choice.” It’s a debate that has been raging behind the scenes and spilling into public as Biden and his allies in Congress have reached another stalemate, working to chisel what had been a sprawling $3.5 trillion package to the still sizable sum of about $2 trillion — to be paid for with tax increases for corporations and the wealthy.
In a letter Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus argue the package should not simply be narrowed as centrist lawmakers prefer, but instead kept as Biden’s bigger vision but for fewer than 10 years — “shorter, transformative investments” that could be started quickly and then revisited. “Much has been made in recent weeks about the compromises necessary to enact this transformative agenda,” wrote Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and other leaders of the 96-member progressive caucus in their letter, obtained by The Associated Press. Joe BidenTrump campaign, others: Dominion worker suit is groundlessFrom cars to gasoline, surging prices match a 13-year highDems consider new immigration plan for domestic policy billBusiness Highlights: Port logjam, Social Security boost
With the calendar slipping toward a new deadline, Pelosi has warned “difficult decisions” must be made to reach consensus ahead of a self-imposed Oct. 31 deadline for passage. Republicans are dead set against the package. So Biden and his party are left to deliberate among themselves, with all eyes still on two key holdouts, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, whose votes are crucial in the evenly divided Senate.
But that is leading to tough questions: Should Biden keep the sweep of his proposals — free childcare and community college; dental, vision and hearing aid benefits for seniors — or scale back to a few key health and education programs that could be more permanent? The progressives have held great sway so far in the debate, but unless Manchin and Sinema come on board, there is no clear path to a deal, risking its collapse. In their letter Wednesday, the progressives said their constituents are depending on them to deliver on the far-ranging package of health care, childcare, family leave, education and other investments, including those to fight climate change.
“If given a choice between legislating narrowly or broadly, we strongly encourage you to choose the latter,” they wrote. The idea, the progressives said, is start the programs “as quickly as possible,” but for shorter durations, with lawmakers free to campaign in the future for their renewal. “This will help make the case for our party’s ability to govern, and establish a track record of success that will pave the way for a long-term extension of benefit,” they wrote.
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