Thu. May 19th, 2022

“When you have 48 people on one side and you have overwhelmingly strong numbers of the American people on one side and you have the President of the United States on one side, it is simply not fair, not right, that one or two people say, ‘My way or the highway,’ “Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who defends with Democrats, said Friday.

But there is a slow and growing reality that in order to pass on Biden’s larger social safety net bill through the Senate, Democrats will have to shrink their price and ask the questions of which programs they will choose to cut into. The original package of 3.5 trillion dollars contained a wish list of democratic promises, including a paid family leave program, child care assistance, an expanded tax deduction for children, and a new notion of the U.S. tax code that shifts the tax burden to the wealthy and businesses. Democrats also want to expand Medicare to provide dental and hearing coverage in the existing program and increase Obamacare by increasing Medicaid coverage for states that did not expand the program and increasing subsidies to Americans

Not everything can be preserved. Members and aides point out that the hard-fought discussions about what remains and what goes on are just underway, and the process can be messy and tumultuous. This week, Democrats in the Senate were given distribution codes describing how much different programs cost, an attempt to focus the discussion on where the party should go with a more limited bill.

Hard choices

Democrats say they now face an election. They could choose to keep many of the programs, but limit the investments they make in them or make them expire sooner. Some progressives are betting that the strategy could create a world where public pressure on the road would keep the programs renewed, even after funding has lapsed.

“As far as I’m concerned, all of these programs are things that the American public and families have been waiting for … and that’s why I want to see them all funded to some degree so we can get started,” Democrat Sen said. . Mazie Hirono from Hawaii. “At some point, they will all become the drug of our country.”

How Democrats could shrink their $ 3.5 trillion spending plan

Progressive Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat in Washington State, told CNN that after a meeting this week, progressives united on the idea that if the price of the package is to go down – which all indications are that it will – then the goal is to keep all programs in the package, but shorten the time each one is funded.

“It was really important to our members,” Jayapal told CNN. “I reported it directly to the White House.”

One option that progressives are not open to is needs testing or narrowing down who qualifies for programs, a strategy Manchin has advocated. Jayapal’s team put together a memorandum from CNN that was sent to the White House on Thursday and all members of the progressive assembly outlining why such provisions should not be in the final version of the bill.

“They disproportionately exclude the most vulnerable,” the five-page memo states, listing one of the many reasons why the assembly is opposed to means testing and work demands. “They delay the delivery of benefits and increase the burden on the very applicants they are designed to serve.”

Other members want to go in a different direction.

Many moderates hope Democrats will choose to narrow their agenda and invest in fewer programs to help focus the message.

Should they go with a smaller number of programs or “more stuff for less time or with fewer people?” said Senator Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota. “That’s the debate we’re going through.”

Smith argued that Democrats may be better served by investing more in less, citing an example of childcare that will only matter to families if they feel the benefit is robust enough to make a difference in their daily lives. .

“If you do not do it big enough, it will not make more than a ripple of difference,” Smith said.

Several members told CNN that they expect the tough talks to be just in their infancy as the party struggles to contain and curb legislation that became a kind of legislative Christmas tree with democratic priorities.

Jayapal says progressives are still waiting to know where things stand.

Biden says the house's progressive spending package should be between $ 1.9 trillion and $ 2.2 trillion

“I know these negotiations are taking place, but I do not think they are in a place where there is any agreement or any kind of last thing that we can hang our hats on and start discussing whether it is sufficient for us or not., ”Jayapal told CNN. “So it’s an ongoing process.”

But Jayapal added that the strategy her assembly maintained in linking the infrastructure bill to the social safety net package is what she believes kick-started negotiations between the White House and the two Democratic senators who remain holdout in high gear.

“Until we said we would not vote for the infrastructure proposal without the reconciliation proposal, there was no conversation from the two senators about what they did not like or what they liked,” Jayapal said. “It only happened because we linked the two bills together.”

For party leaders – many of whom are in their 70s and 80s – the measure marks a high point in their careers, an opportunity to pass legislation they have spent decades working towards. For Sanders, expanding Medicare is a top priority. For House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, it’s important to cut up for Obamacare. House Ways and Means chairman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, has been working to extend the tax deduction for children, while others have spent decades fighting for paid family leave.

But for members facing re-election in tough districts, their message to leaders has been to focus on just a handful of things that the party could well accomplish.

Bitterness excites as Democrats again try to pass Biden's economic agenda

“We need to reach a top number, and then I would prefer fewer programs for a longer period,” said Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana. “But all this is negotiable.”

Asked if there was a risk in trying to do too much and explaining to people what’s inside, Tester said, “Absolutely.”

“There are like 17 different things in this bill that are game-changers, and there is a risk of that,” he continued.

Jayapal thinks it’s too early to make immediate concessions just to get something done.

“The discussion of something against nothing, for me it is far too early to have that discussion. It is something that happens at the end of a negotiation when one was really fighting for something,” Jayapal said. “And the truth is, there was five months of negotiation on the infrastructure bill. And there really has been no negotiation on the Build Back Better Act.”

The bite tends to front lines

While almost every vote matters in the Democrats’ razor-sharp majority, Biden has been extra careful about caring for his party’s most vulnerable members and promised in private meetings to win prizes for their re-election campaigns and even offer to visit their districts to help sell his social. package for safety nets.

Biden started a virtual meeting with so-called “front-line” House Democrats this week by acknowledging that these members will face some of the most competitive re-elections in the country next year, and he stressed the urgent need to ensure their needs and concerns are heard throughout the negotiation process.

“The president made it very clear that part of his agenda is to ensure that we get some gains out of this bill and that it will be things that we can move forward on,” the rep said. Susan Wild, a Pennsylvania Democrat who attended the meeting.

The virtual meeting came just hours before Biden traveled to a Michigan district represented by the Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a central swing district that Donald Trump had in 2020. Biden also offered to visit other frontline boundaries, a proposal that several members agreed would be helpful, according to lawmakers who attended the meeting.

“He is still trying to rally Parliament and force us to vote in favor of this historic bill,” the Democratic rep said. Vicente Gonzalez, representing a competitive district along the Texas border. “The urgency for each member is different. … We live in a big tent in the Democratic Party right now.”

Democrats have a numbers problem

“He also realizes that it is important to get this done for competitive races, and get it done in a timely manner that the American people will see shovels in the ground at the next election,” Gonzalez of Biden added.

The president has also been able to make progressives feel validated and part of the process. Jayapal pointed out that Biden’s visit to Parliament last week was important in strengthening the position that progressives have held all along.

Although party leaders need progressives to get on board as much as the moderates, there is also a recognition that front-line Democrats have the most to lose if their party does not deliver on Biden’s economic agenda. Whether these Members retain their seats – and thus control of Parliament’s majorities – may depend on whether and what legislation the Democrats are able to pass.

With that dynamic in mind, Biden — who has been in “listening mode” and was seen clattering on a notepad during his virtual meeting with moderates, asked frontline members to list their main preferences for the economic bill. The priorities they named included medication prices, child care, and community college.

Where things are with the price tag

Together with Pelosi, Biden has made it clear to members that the cost of the social safety net must be reduced.

On Monday, Pelosi wrote in a letter that Biden “indicated that we would work with a lower overhead line, and therefore decisions must be made about the size and scope of the reconciliation bill.”

Biden has reportedly managed the original $ 3.5 trillion to land somewhere in the $ 1.9 to $ 2.2 trillion range. Manchin has said he would like to see the package cost $ 1.5 trillion.

Although Jayapal confirmed to CNN on Monday that she had told Biden that she thought his $ 1.9 trillion to $ 2.2 trillion range was “too small,” she said she would not continue negotiations with a certain number in mind, but want to keep it “as close to” the $ 3.5 trillion version of the package that has been marked in the House as possible.

Chuck Schumer chose the wrong time to go for a score

“I do not have a number. I told the president that I thought 1.9 (trillion) to 2.2 (trillion) was too small to get all our priorities in,” she said.

The progressive freshman, rep. Mondaire Jones from New York, told CNN that the conversation about the top line of the package is premature.

“We start by needing Manchin and Sinema to tell us what things they want to cut from $ 3.5 trillion,” Jones said.

In his front-line meeting, Biden asked those who have a top-line number to disclose it, but no one did.

“He made it clear that we’ll never get to $ 3.5 trillion, and that’s probably somewhere in the middle,” Gonzalez said.

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