As the new October 31 deadline to turn two massive spending bills into law draws nigh, Democrats are hard at work, doing all they can to hammer out an agreement. The $3.5 trillion price tag for the Build Back Better Act has been slashed in the name of winning over Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who wouldn’t back the bigger bill. Biden says the new number is about $1.9 trillion and that some social spending will have to go – but at least Manchin and Sinema should be happy. Despite Biden’s optimism, neither has jumped on board yet – and it’s unclear if they will.
What’s in the Dang Bill?
After a private meeting with progressive lawmakers on Capitol Hill, President Biden visited the city of his birth, Scranton, PA, to tout his major spending packages. He discussed the new negotiations and how the two pieces of legislation would be good for a former coal town like Scranton. As the president spoke, Democrats on the Hill were still working on reaching a deal. Biden said that though the spending bills were declared dead on arrival, “I think we’re going to surprise them.”
So, what will be in the new, slimmer version? CNN has a partial list of changes, courtesy of “multiple sources.” The child tax credit would be extended for one year – possibly two, depending on how talks go – but that’s down from the initially proposed extension through 2025. Child and home care are still in, but with less funding overall. The whole free tuition for all at community college idea was dropped entirely, though universal pre-K remains, and there are funds for scholarships and an expansion of Pell grants. The 12-week paid leave progressives promised workers would be reduced to four weeks. Medicare would be expanded to include vision and hearing, and greater dental coverage could be in the works.
Climate and SALT deductions are still up in the air, but the Clean Energy Power Program is out. Climate spending has been one of the major hang-ups. As Liberty Nation’s Mark Angelides pointed out, “Senator Manchin will be satisfied with the cost but not the content.” And, of course, anything Manchin is likely to agree to may well cause problems with progressives in the House.
Is Joe Ready to Go?
The intraparty war over infrastructure spending has had no shortage of drama. Sen. Manchin was allegedly so fed up with the fight he threatened to leave the Democratic Party. Mother Jones – the source of the story – cites “people who have heard Manchin discuss this” as the source. Evidently, if they’re to be believed, Manchin has prepared a “detailed exit strategy for his departure” should the Build Back Better Act not be revised to the much lower price of $1.75 trillion.
If Manchin did leave, he would call himself an “American Independent,” the unnamed sources said. One might wonder what power such a threat would have over the Democrats, given the fact Manchin often refuses to follow the party line already. The two actual Independents in the Senate – Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine – have always voted more consistently Democrat than Manchin.
So is Joe ready to go? “I can’t control rumors, and it’s bullsh–, bullsh—spelled with B, U, L, L, capital ‘B,’” the West Virginia senator told reporters. That hardly sounds promising for those dreaming of a Sen. Manchin (R-WV). Manchin has been hammered hard by progressives for his failure to toe the party line – and Mother Jones has certainly earned its progressive bona fides – so perhaps this is just wishful thinking? Maybe. On the other hand, it could be that Manchin really is hot under the collar and was overheard letting off a little steam – whether he meant it or not. As for the new negotiations on spending, Manchin said he’s just “working with everybody I can, talking to everybody.”
Wish in One Hand …
Deadlines come and deadlines go – and if the Halloween deadline blows by without a deal, it certainly won’t be the first one missed. Biden wants an agreement before heading to Glasgow, Scotland for a climate summit on October 31 – and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has set her own deadline on the same day to get the smaller package passed through her chamber.
President Biden believes he can get Manchin and Sinema on board with the lower price tag – but that’s going to be a problem for progressives. Then there’s the climate activism. Manchin can’t be happy about the $300 billion for solar and wind energy and electric vehicles – and the far-left won’t like the $150 billion earmarked for carbon capture and nuclear power. With price and climate initiatives being a sticking point for both moderates and progressives, Halloween may well come and go, leaving Biden’s legislative agenda naught but a ghost.
~ Read more from James Fite.