President Joe Biden is clearly staking much of his legacy on the passage of a massive $3.5 trillion Build Back Better spending bill.
Recent developments, however, seem to indicate that his plan is already starting to crumble.
“I will continue working”
A handful of moderate Democrats have balked at the price tag, which could doom the partisan bill given the party’s slim majority on Capitol Hill. As Fox News reported, key provisions including paid family and medical leave could be dropped in an attempt to appeal to centrists.
For her part, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) disputes such reports as “premature” and insisted this week that there has been no firm plan to jettison those aspects of the bill.
“Until the bill is printed, I will continue working to include paid leave in the Build Back Better plan,” she said.
Of course, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) hold significant influence over the process as progressives in their party attempt to convince them that the multitrillion-dollar package is worth the investment.
Manchin has expressed reluctance to sign off on the initiative as long as it remains unclear how existing commitments will be covered.
“I just can’t do it”
“I’m talking to everybody, but I’ve been very clear,” he said. “To expand social programs when you have trust funds that aren’t solvent — they’re going insolvent — I can’t explain that. It doesn’t make sense to me. … I just can’t do it.”
Biden has been called on to make the case for his ambitious proposal, using an appearance in New Jersey on Monday to tout its purported benefits.
“These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency,” he asserted. “They’re about expanding opportunity, not opportunity denied. They’re about leading the world or continuing to let the world pass us by.”
Nevertheless, recent polling suggests that many Americans are on the side of Manchin and Sinema. The National Republican Congressional Committee, for example, commissioned a survey that found roughly two in three voters in 85 battleground congressional districts are afraid Democratic proposals will lead to an increase in their cost of living.
The latest development to emerge from the lengthy negotiations between moderate and progressive Democrats reveal a bill that is roughly half the size of Biden’s initial proposal — but Republican lawmakers still show no signs of warming to the idea of supporting yet another behemoth spending package.