Of course the Democrats should agree on Biden’s proposed $1.75 trillion spending plan and pass the bi-partisan infrastructure bill, which is on hold in the House. Anything else is petulant, and political suicide.
The “drama” of the Democrats in-fighting with Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema shrinking Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) agenda from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion; Senator Bernie Sanders saying he won’t vote for BBB unless it contains things like prescription drug pricing reform; and Congressmember Pramila Jayapal saying the Progressive Caucus won’t vote for BBB unless it contains things like paid family leave has become ridiculous in a 50-50 Senate. The proper, politically smart, response is to elect more Democrats in 2022 so two “moderate” Democratic senators can’t torpedo a popular, needed landmark piece of legislation.
Clearly, the U.S. should lower prescription drug prices. Clearly, we should depart from the club of six countries in the world which does not have paid family leave. Equally, we should incentivize electric utility companies to switch to renewable energy. However, it has become clear that the Democrats don’t have the votes to do this. No Republicans will vote for BBB. And while the Democrats have the mechanism to avoid a Republican filibuster — Reconciliation — they don’t have the votes without Manchin and Sinema.
The Democrats’ control of Congress is paper thin. It consists of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaker vote in the Senate and only a 220 to 212 majority in the House. The urgency to give Biden the victory he needs to assume a leadership role at the Glasgow environmental summit, and move on to voter reform here at home, has become the worst kind of self-imposed brinksmanship.
Stop the infighting! Give the president what he needs to move forward. Elect more Democrats in 2022 so things like reductions in drug prices, paid family leave, and rewards for electric utility providers to transition to renewable energy can become reality.
Biden’s compromise is nothing to sneeze at. It includes $555 billion worth of climate initiatives (tax credits for solar and electric vehicles, credits for clean energy production, and a civilian climate corps to meet the goal of 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030); a 15 percent minimum tax on corporate profits; free universal pre-K for all 3 and 4 year olds; expanded child care; lower premiums for 9 million Americans who purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act; better Medicaid converge for senior home care; an expanded child tax credit of $300 per month; and expansion of the free school meal program for millions of U.S. children.
There is nothing wrong with any of this. Granted, it should have included more. But until the Democrats have the votes to do so, this is the best they can do. Failure to agree to this “compromise” gives the Republicans the ammunition they need to take back the House and Senate in 2022. Those Democratic members of Congress who can’t hear the Republican campaign ads — which will say, “Democrats in full control of the government can’t pass their president’s agenda” — are either more concerned with the things they want but can’t at this time have, or politically inept.
Elections have consequences. The 2020 election created a Congress not yet ready to enact the kind of progressive reforms the country needs. We can change that in 2022, but only if the Democrats get their act together and compromise.