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Tag: build back better act

'Failure Is Not An Option': Congress Debates Biden's Historic Agenda

Washington (AFP) - Joe Biden faces the most important test of his presidency this week as Democrats in the US Congress launch a highwire bid to implement his sweeping economic agenda while keeping the government's lights on.

The House and Senate are moving toward votes on legislation dealing with infrastructure and social programs worth almost $5 trillion while also averting a government shutdown on Friday and a looming debt default.

Failure on any front would be catastrophic for a president looking to cement his legacy, while Democrats would see their chances diminished for hanging onto the House of Representatives and Senate in next year's midterm elections.

"You know me: I'm born optimistic. I think things are going to go well. I think we're going to get it done," an upbeat Biden told reporters at the White House.

At stake is the fate of Biden's $3.5 trillion Build Back Better social welfare package that only Democrats support, and a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to improve transport networks and broadband coverage that has already passed the Senate with cross-party support.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told colleagues that there would be a vote on infrastructure on Thursday -- the same day Congress needs to strike a funding deal to avoid a government shutdown.

'Intensity'

Progressive Democrats in the House have repeatedly threatened to tank infrastructure without a significant commitment from their moderate colleagues on Build Back Better.

But moderates nervous about freewheeling spending have said they may not vote for the bigger bill without infrastructure crossing the line first -- and have talked about scaling back the $3.5 trillion ticket price in any case.

"The next few days will be a time of intensity," Pelosi wrote to House Democrats, who have a three-vote margin in the House, plus the anticipated support of at least 10 Republicans for infrastructure.

Biden says the two bills would save the average family $15,000 a year through expanded care and education programs and reduced drug pricing, while transforming public transport, highways, bridges and broadband internet access would make life easier and greener.

The president told reporters Monday that agreement on Build Back Better may not be completed before the infrastructure vote and shutdown deadline, although he added: "I hope it's by the end of the week."

'Week from hell'

Adding to the drama, lawmakers have until midnight going into Friday to green-light a package to fund the government ahead of federal agencies running out of money.

Failure would shut down the government, which typically leads to hundreds of thousands of workers being sent home as public services are closed.

The House passed a "continuing resolution" last week to keep the government open until December 3 -- but the evenly-divided 100-member Senate rejected the package on Monday, with Democrats failing to secure the 60 votes necessary to begin debate.

Republicans are opposed to a 14-month debt ceiling hike that was included in the wording following warnings that the Treasury Department will be unable to obtain new loans sometime in October.

They say Biden's spending plans are out of control, and that the Democrats -- who control both chambers of Congress -- should avoid the disastrous looming credit default by lifting the borrowing cap on their own.

In reality, the debt limit suspension would cover spending backed by Republicans under Donald Trump, as well as other spending already authorized by the government.

Biden, who discussed the bills via phone earlier Monday with Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, slammed what he called Republican "actions that show a lack of concern about our economic recovery," according to a White House statement.

The upper chamber is now likely to send a "clean" continuing resolution back to the House to pass without the debt-limit provision, averting the shutdown for two months.

That would leave the debt-limit problem unresolved, however -- a worrying outcome that will make the markets increasingly jumpy as the mid-to-late October deadline draws closer.

"You want me to be honest? It's going to be a week from hell," Rep. Debbie Dingell told CNN on Sunday.

"But failure is not an option. There is too much at stake."

McCarthy Falsely Claims Biden Plan Will 'Add $5 Trillion' To Debt

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy falsely claimed on Monday that President Joe Biden's spending plan would add $5 trillion to the national debt. But he has previously acknowledged that it is funded by raising taxes on the rich and corporations.

On Fox News, the California Republican slammed the proposed Build Back Better plan — which would invest about $3.5 trillion in climate change, clean energy, health care, paid leave, child care, and free community college and pre-K — and the $550 billion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act."

McCarthy charged that the bill was funded "by putting a debt onto the next generation of Americans. That's how it's paid for."

When McCarthy was asked whether any Republican would join the Democratic majority in voting to address the debt ceiling and avert a national default, he answered, "There won't be [any]. They [Democrats] want to add another $5 trillion just this week.

"Our debt as we speak today is $28 trillion. We've got about another two to sell and they want to add another five," McCarthy added.

But McCarthy is way off on these numbers.

The cost of the bipartisan infrastructure plan — which passed the Senate 69-30 in August and would invest billions in transportation, water systems, broadband, and electrical grid infrastructure — is at least partially offset by savings and additional revenue. According to a partial analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, more than half of it is paid for.

And Biden has repeatedly promised that the $3.5 trillion plan would be paid for by increasing taxes on corporations and those making $400,000 or more annually. "It adds zero dollars to the national debt," he tweeted on Saturday.

In an April press release denouncing "Biden's radical tax and spend agenda," McCarthy claimed Biden "plans to 'Build Back Better' by growing the government, raising taxes on American families and investments, destroying jobs, and saddling future generations with a massive debt — an agenda that will inevitably crush economic opportunity."


In May, McCarthy accused Biden of "proposing the largest tax increase in American history, including making our corporate tax rate the highest in the world."

The United States added $7.8 trillion to the national debt during former President Donald Trump's time in office — much of it with support from Republicans in Congress. In 2019, McCarthy and a bipartisan House majority opted to suspend the debt limit for the remainder of Trump's term.

The GOP's 2017 tax cut plan, which largely benefited the wealthiest Americans, increased the same budget shortfalls by severely cutting tax revenue. In 2018, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the Republican tax cuts would add roughly $1.9 trillion to the federal deficit between 2018 and 2028.

"In 2017, Republicans lowered taxes & let you keep more of your own money," McCarthy tweeted earlier this month. "Now, Democrats want to take America backward. They are going to vote to raise your taxes so they can spend more on socialist pet projects."

The proposed debt limit increase is not about paying for the new plans; it is needed to allow the government to pay for the commitments made already by this and previous Congresses and for the interest on the debt already accrued.

According to a recent report from Moody's Analytics, failure to address the debt ceiling could cost the nation's economy up to 6 million jobs, reduce household wealth by nearly $15 trillion, and increase the unemployment rate from five percent to nine percent.

A McCarthy spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.