Associate News Editor
The elaborate dance that is Washington politics has been in full effect as Congress kicks off the new fiscal year on October 1st, embattled over two of the biggest would-be victories for the Biden Administration. The 1 trillion-dollar infrastructure, and the proposed 3.5 trillion-dollar bill aimed at combating climate change and expanding the social safety net.
The 1 trillion-dollar infrastructure bill was passed this August in the Senate. With a rare bipartisan fashion, the bill received 69 votes, 50 Democrats and 19 Republicans: including some of the leading members of the Republican caucus such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The bill has the chance to be a signature win for President Joe Biden, who championed bipartisanship while on the campaign trail. According to the Washington Post, it would introduce nearly half a trillion dollars of new spending on hard infrastructure. $110 Billion dollars’ worth of spending on roads, bridges and other transportation, and notably, $65 billion dollars for high speed internet. Also, included in this bill is the biggest increase in funding to Amtrack since the program started.
However, the bill is now facing unexpected turbulence at the hands of progressive House Democrats.
Progressives have vowed to sink the bill if the Senate does not reach an agreement on a much larger 3.5 trillion-dollar spending bill.
The bill encompasses much of the biggest wants of the Democratic party: Two years free of community college and additional spending on Pell grants. Universal Pre-K is another provision of the bill. One of the biggest parts of the bill is the proposed expansion of Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision. Paid leave is another hallmark of the spending plan.
To help pay for this package, Democrats are also hoping to introduce a slew of new taxes to corporations and those who make more than $400,000 dollars a year. According to estimations done by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the new taxes would bring in over $2 trillion dollars’ worth of revenue in the next ten years.
The social safety net is predicted to be passed using a method called reconciliation. This method means that the Democrats would need a simple majority, which they have, to pass the bill.
So, what is the issue? Some fiscally conservative Democrats, notably Joe Manchin III from West Virginia have struggled with the massive price tag being debated. Recent reports put the price at which Manchin is willing to negotiate at $1.5 trillion dollars. While Progressives in the party already consider the price tag of $3.5 trillion dollars a compromise on their end.
With such a slim majority in the Senate, the Democrats must retain all 50 of the Democratic Senators to pass the bill. It would be very unlikely to see any Republican support for this bill. Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the tie-breaking vote in this scenario. In the House, progressives make up a sizable portion of the Democratic majority in the house; without progressive support, the bill would fail.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Biden have been feverishly working to cut a deal that works for both sides. However, as votes in the House on the infrastructure deal have been called off both Thursday and Friday night, it seems a deal is unlikely to be reached anytime soon.
The move to call off the vote was a calculated risk. On one hand, centrists in the Senate have been disappointed in the inability of the House to pass a bill that was passed in the Senate with support from both sides.
However, a failure to pass the bill would be a colossal failure for the Biden Administration. A postponed vote to help gain more time to ease over the progressives in the House seems to be the safest route to make sure the bill can be passed.
Recent reports suggest that the house is aiming for a vote near the end of October for the infrastructure deal. A steep hill lays ahead for the Democrats as the two sides of their coalition still seem far off from a deal that satisfies all.