Democrats Weigh Cutting Programs or Reducing Scope to Trim $3.5 Trillion Bill

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Tough decision looms as Democrats try to unite after President Biden says the law needs to slash spending

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President Biden told House Democrats on Friday that he expects the total cost to be between $1.9 trillion and $2.3 trillion eventually after talks with the centrists, according to people familiar with his remarks.

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To reach that new spending limit, some Democrats, including progressives who backed the $3.5 trillion level, favor rolling back the timeline for the proposed spending, while others, including some centrists, are in small numbers. Wants to focus money on programs.

“There are two options,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.). “You can take out pieces, or you can start a piece in year 2 instead of year 1. Or you do something for year five, not 10, and find it so popular that when you come back in year six.” Well, of course we’d like to do it.”

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Which option to choose – or whether to pursue a combination of the two – will become a central question facing Democrats in the coming days and weeks and could force tough choices on cherished objectives. Among the many measures, lawmakers aim to expand the recently expanded child tax credit, create a new national paid holiday program and push utilities to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

Top Democrats in the House repeatedly delayed a vote last week on a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill that had already passed the Senate, as progressives first reached an agreement on a social policy and climate bill. was emphasized. Congress instead approved a 30-day extension of transportation programs over the weekend, which would have been re-authorized in the infrastructure bill, but expired on October 1. The expansion put Democrats on a new timeline for resolving their intra-party differences.

Mr Biden told reporters on Saturday that “everyone is disappointed” with the process, adding that both bills should pass. “There is no reason why these two bills could not pass independently, except that there are no votes to do so. It is a simple motion,” he said. “I support them both , and I think we can accomplish both of those.”

Some Democrats see the social policy and climate bill as their only opportunity to tackle the breadth of the party’s agenda, while they enjoy control of both the White House and Congress, leading some Democrats to fear that next year’s midterm elections will be held. After that, it may fall into Republican hands.

Republicans have largely united in their opposition, with much of their criticism focused on a proposed tax increase to cover funding. Democrats are thus pushing the social policy and climate bill through a process called budget reconciliation, which allows them to advance legislation with only a simple majority in the Senate, instead of the 60 usually required.

Simultaneously passing policy measures ranging from tax credits for electric vehicles to lowering the cost of drugs is a way to address many of the party’s favorite issues ahead of the election, even if those measures expire within a few years. .

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Cal.) said last week that Democrats would negotiate a shortened deadline for programs proposed in the bill as a way to reduce overall costs.

“If it’s a short period of time or something like that, that’s a question we’ll deal with,” she told reporters.

Establishing programs for only a few years would put pressure on lawmakers on both sides to renew them in the future, spreading the cost of funding programs over many laws over many years. Some centrists have said that such a strategy is merely a way to hide the true cost of the bill and instead insisted on a narrow set of programmes.

“Those programs will never end,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D., WVA), a leading centrist in the talks. “Once you start doing something it adds up to that.”

Mr Manchin, who has said he wants the legislation to be limited to $1.5 trillion, has also insisted on targeting programs only for low-income Americans to reduce overall spending.

Congress has delayed the end of tax deductions, or is set to eliminate permanent elements of previous bills, before removing them for nearly all taxpayers. Republicans are already arguing that Congress would need to expand provisions of the 2017 tax law that expires after 2025, including a larger standard deduction.

To meet the $3.5 trillion price tag, Democrats planned to prioritize funding on a temporary basis. For example, legislation drafted by House Democrats funded the Extended Child Tax Credit for four additional years, two years of community college for five years, child care provisions for six years, and Universal Prekindergarten for seven years. .

According to the aide, lawmakers are looking at reducing the timeframe for those programs and others, including proposing a paid family leave, in order to meet a smaller top-line spending figure. Can go

Some Democrats are pushing their preferred priorities to garner stronger support in the legislation. Suzanne DelBene (D., Wash.), chair of the liberal New Democrat Coalition, said Democrats should focus their resources on the expanded child tax credit and avoid uncertainty about whether the program will continue in the future.

“The worst thing that would happen is that we’re going to do a little bit of everything, so we have to do things well, so it’s choosing what we’re doing well and making sure we’re doing a good job.” Solid work there,” she said.

Other Democrats see many of the new programs as a way to build public support for the measures and make progress on an array of policy goals at once, at the risk of ending Congress in the future.

“Here’s the important question: What’s the way to fund something over the long term? And the way is to make it big enough and universal and important enough that people demand to keep it going.”

“Life is a gamble. We are only here for a while,” he said.

write to Andrew

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