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Build Back Better: WINNING THE FUTURE Or Libs In Disarray?
Reading the Politico tea leaves.
You know you're reading a Politico piece when, after 16 paragraphs insisting that negotiations on the Build Back Better reconciliation bill have hacked away nearly everything congressional progressives wanted, the article suddenly states, "Still, it looks like progressives will win something in nearly every policy area ..." Well that's nice! Mind you, the article then gets right back to suggesting the final product will be the weakest pisswater, and that if you hear a progressive saying the bill contains good stuff, that's mere happy talk aimed at putting a good light on a total disaster.
Politico gonna Politico, is what we're saying.
Weirdly, that "Libs in Disarray" report published today follows a far less breathless Politico story yesterday (written by two of the same reporters, even) about a Sunday meeting between President Joe Biden, Senator Joe Manchin, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer aimed at getting a Build Back Better deal together quickly. In that one, Politico managed something a lot closer to journalism, noting that there are several sticking points in the negotiations yet to be worked out, but that progress is apparently good enough that House leadership may hold a vote on the companion legislation, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, this week. Or maybe not! (If you have trouble keeping the two straight, go review our 'splainer here ).
So where do things stand today? As ever with Build Back Better, it's still a work in progress, but the overall point is that it will definitely include most of the social safety net programs that Biden originally proposed, albeit at lower funding levels so that for them to become permanent, a later Congress would need to vote additional spending. The hope, as we've said before, is that the programs will become popular enough that Dems can run on them in the 2022 midterms, keep or expand their congressional majorities, and then extend or make permanent the programs in this year's bill.
The New York Times reports that much of the original Build Back Better programs are definitely still in the bill, with lower funding levels to accommodate the lower total cost over 10 years that Senators Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema want. That includes the extended child tax credit, federal support for childcare and at-home elderly care, universal pre-K, and tax incentives for clean energy. There's a bit less certainty about the shape some other elements will take, if they remain in the bill at all, the Times reports:
[A] a final deal remained elusive amid disputes over the details of potential Medicare and Medicaid expansions, a new paid family and medical leave program, programs to combat climate change and a proposal to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Top Democrats were also toiling to nudge the price tag up to $2 trillion, still far below the $3.5 trillion level they laid out in their budget plan.
Politico suggests that the paid family and medical leave plan — which had already been scaled back from 12 weeks to four — the expanded Medicare benefits, and improvements to Medicaid are likely to be removed altogether, while the Times doesn't go that far, saying only that Manchin is "opposed" to them. (We personally hope they'll DQ family leave, which seems so far to be structured to do dick. "A mess that doesn't cover anyone and is implemented by private insurers and corporations" seems destined to backfire.) We'll find out more in coming days, but we're not ready to sign on to Politico's framing that they're prolly dead and gone.
On the Medicare, which Senator Bernie Sanders wants expanded to cover vision, hearing, and dental coverage, it's possible, Politico reported yesterday, that the high cost of covering dental care for all Medicare beneficiaries may lead to just vision and hearing coverage being included at first, with dental coverage phased in later. On CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Medicare expansion is
"part of the negotiation" but noted "dental is very expensive." [...]
"Dental will take a little longer to implement," Pelosi said. "We've been told by people who know about these things that it'll take five or six years in order to implement the dental. So how do we, shall we say, fill in the blank there?"
So that one also seems to be still under negotiation, too. Finally, Manchin is against any new spending that might bring Medicaid-like coverage to people in the dozen states that have refused to expand Medicaid, the Times reports, because Manchin is sad that West Virginia already expanded Medicaid and is covering 10 percent of the expanded benefits, so how it that fair to maybe save the lives of people in states that didn't do the right thing?
Wow, we loathe that guy. Happily, it seems like Biden has at least stood firm against Manchin's call to add work requirements or to limit eligibility for the expanded child tax credit. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed, even though that's going to make our typing even more dreadful. At the very least, the most recent stories on the BBB negotiations haven't mentioned it.
On the funding side, it really does look like Sinema will be successful in her attempt to block any increases in the corporate tax rate or the top marginal tax rates for personal income tax or capital gains, even though Manchin had been willing to see some of the 2017 Trump tax cuts rolled back. But with the overall price tag of Build Back Better being reduced, it's likely that other sources of revenue will be added to the bill, such as a minimum corporate tax, stepped up tax enforcement by the IRS, and even some form of Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax, which apparently Sinema likes.
"I think we will find a way that we can come together and have all 50 Democrats on board," said Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is heavily involved in the finance discussion. "We're all trying to head in the same direction."
Get ready for another crazy week, and don't believe Politico's doomier reporting.
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