Friday’s comments by President Joe Biden indicated that he would rather reduce the length of his $3.5 trillion climate and social safety net legislation than eliminate all programs. This is because Democrats are struggling to cut the legislation in order to win support from moderates.
Biden’s comments in Connecticut were his clearest yet comments on how he expects negotiations to play out.
It was a subtle break from Nancy Pelosi (House Speaker), who had earlier suggested that most Democrats prefer to concentrate on creating a few enduring programs.
“I’m of the view that it’s important to establish the principle on a whole range of issues without guaranteeing to get the whole 10 years,” Biden told reporters before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington. “It matters to establish it.”
“So what happens is, you pass the principle and you build on it,” he added. “You look back and either it works or it doesn’t work.”
Pelosi wrote Monday to Democratic lawmakers: “Overwhelmingly the guidance I’m receiving from Members to do fewer tasks well”
Biden had earlier told lawmakers that he expected the package to shrink but that he would return to get the rest after it was passed.
“We’re not going to get $3.5 trillion. We’ll get less than that, but we’re gonna get it. And we’re going to come back and get the rest,” Biden said during remarks at a child care center in Connecticut.
The Democrats on Capitol Hill want to cut the spending package to around $2 trillion. This would be funded by higher taxes for corporations and the wealthy. It includes everything, from community college and free child care to senior dental, vision and hearing aid benefits. There are also significant provisions to combat climate change. These are all important items for progressives but moderates balk at the $3.5 trillion price tag.
The Senate and House have narrow margins, so Democrats don’t have enough votes to pass the bill. Some progressives are concerned about the whittling process.
Biden has made it clear that the price tag must be reduced. Biden visited Hartford’s child development center on Friday to discuss the need to invest in child care and other social security net programs. He argued that they are essential to keeping America competitive in global markets.
Biden promoted his plan to free such care for low-income families and to ensure that parents earning less than 7% of their salary on child care. This is part of a huge expansion of the social security net that Biden championed, and which is only attainable with Democratic votes in Congress.
“Too many folks in Washington still don’t realize it isn’t enough just to invest in our physical infrastructure. We also have to invest in our people,” he said.
Biden continued to explain how his plan would lower child care costs for Connecticut residents and pointed out the difference between U.S. investment in early child care and greater foreign investments.
“How can we compete in the world if millions of American parents, especially moms, can’t be part of the workforce because they can’t afford the cost of child care or eldercare?”
He briefly met some children at the center’s play area, and at one point he knelt to hug a child.
As his Democratic allies raise concerns about the American public’s inability to understand the package’s benefits, the president’s pitch is a timely one. There is renewed urgency among Democrats to push it through ahead of an end-of-month deadline on transportation funding, Biden’s upcoming foreign trip, and a closer-than-anticipated race for Virginia’s next governor.
The White House and members are continuing to talk, trying to reach a consensus on both the spending levels for the legislation as well as the specific programs that should be included. Centerist Senators have raised objections. Democrats are being forced to reduce the package by Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Silena
Biden has called the legislation “Build Back Better”, and it is holding up a bipartisan infrastructure bill worth more than $1 trillion that was passed by the Senate this summer. House progressives won’t support the roads-and bridges bill until they can agree on a way forward for the social security net package.
Terry McAuliffe (Democratic candidate for Virginia governor) spoke out against Biden in an interview with The Associated Press.
McAuliffe stated, “They all need to get their act together” and that they should all vote. McAuliffe was asked if he was calling Biden out. McAuliffe replied, “I put everyone there.” McAuliffe is currently in a close race with Glenn Youngkin, a Republican newcomer in a state that Biden won by 10 points last autumn.
Biden also spoke later at the dedication of Dodd Center for Human Rights, University of Connecticut. This was renamed in honor of a long-time friend, former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd and Dodd’s father, who is also a former senator.
Biden stated that U.S. efforts in defense of human rights around the globe are stronger because they recognize their own historical challenges as part a larger fight. He also said that it is important to lead by example and promote equity.