The White House yesterday unveiled a new $1.7 trillion (€1.46trn) package to overhaul the country’s healthcare, education, climate and tax laws, muscling through a slew of policy disagreements and internecine political feuds that had stalled President Joe Biden’s economic agenda for months.
he announcement is a critical moment in Mr Biden’s tenure. Many House Democrats were distressed by the programmes being jettisoned to cut the proposal’s overall cost.
While many key lawmakers did not immediately weigh in on the new plan, the White House stressed Mr Biden’s belief that it will attract the support of all Democrats in the Senate and pass the House.
He is investing enormous political capital in his new proposal, which follows days of intensive, secretive meetings with key lawmakers. He was due to meet House Democrats yesterday, indicating to wary Democrats that they risk damaging him and the party if they do not get on board.
The new initiative would expand Medicare benefits, promote cleaner energy, offer free pre-kindergarten and invest heavily in social safety net schemes, including tax credits and other aid that chiefly benefit low-income families. It would mark the most far-reaching social package in years.
The administration has proposed funding the efforts through a slew of proposals, including a new surtax targeting ultrawealthy Americans.
Many of the components in the retooled blueprint originate in the proposals Mr Biden put forward in the spring. The ideas correspond with promises the president and other party candidates made in the course of the 2020 election, when Mr Biden ran on a refrain to “build back better.”
But the policy framework White House aides unfurled yesterday is a significant departure from the roughly $3.5trn (€3trn) the president and many top party lawmakers initially sought. Downsizing that plan forced the president to jettison some of his own priorities, including a fuller expansion of Medicare and a plan to provide paid family leave to millions of Americans.
Many of the cuts reflected deep ideological divides among party liberals, who sought to spend aggressively, and moderates, who repeatedly in the debate have tried to dial back Democrats’ spending. While the shrinking size, from $3.5trn to $1.75trn, allows moderates to claim they significantly pared back the package, it also is certain to leave many liberals disappointed that they could not accomplish more.
Left-leaning lawmakers led by Senator Bernie Sanders, who drafted the original policy framework, initially hoped to leverage their rare – if razor-thin – majorities in the House and Senate to reshape broad swaths of the US economy. In the earliest days of the debate, they had even envisioned a $6trn (€5.14trn) package.
But the party’s liberal bloc ultimately had no choice but to scale back some of its ambitions to assuage two moderate holdouts, Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, whose votes were crucial in a Senate divided 50-50 between the parties, with no Republicans expected to support the package.
The duo demanded steep spending cuts and other policy changes in exchange for their votes in the Senate, where Democrats cannot afford a single defection.
The resulting framework includes prekindergarten programmes that White House aides described as part of the largest one-time education investment since the creation of public high school. The $1.7trn plan also includes new aid to help families afford childcare and extends tax credits that millions of parents currently are receiving in the form of monthly checks.
In the healthcare arena, the new plan would provide new tax credits to help roughly
4 million low-income people afford health insurance in a dozen states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act
The White House has endorsed roughly $555bn (€475bn) to address climate change, including a series of tax changes that officials said would help the country reach Mr Biden’s goal to halve carbon emissions by 2030. That part of the package is especially critical to the president as he takes part in a global climate summit next week.
© Washington Post