Throughout October, negotiations were going on regarding President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, originally a $3.5 trillion package meant to reshape the role of government in public life, and arguably the biggest social safety net expansion since FDR’s New Deal.
The bill included 12 weeks of paid medical leave, free community college, policies aimed at combating climate change, expanding Medicare to include dental, hearing, and vision…. The list goes on.
Unfortunately, it is all but guaranteed that very few of these proposals will make it to the final version of the bill, all because Democrats Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are set, at all costs, to block any sort of monumental progress.
The two Senators have been a frequent thorn in the side of congressional Democrats. Because of the razor-thin margin that Democrats have in Congress (a 50/50 split in the Senate and an advantage of only a couple of seats in the House of
Representatives), these two alone are enough to thwart any policy proposals that 99 percent of their party is in favor of.
Manchin has said that a package of $1.75 trillion is his ceiling, which comes off as an arbitrary, stubborn number that he’s come up with that is out of touch with the cost it would take to cause any sort of meaningful, transformational change on the
Sinema, on the other hand, has refused to increase corporate tax rates on big businesses or taxes on the wealthy, a policy that virtually every other Democrat supports. The additional tax revenue from corporations/the most wealthy Americans is around $700 billion, meaning that Sinema’s opposition is holding hostage a huge source of funding for Biden’s Build Back Better policies. Because of Manchin and Sinema’s arbitrary desire to scale back the price tag on a package that would bring about a lot of necessary change, several aspects of the bill are being left on the cutting room floor.
Free community college is out. The most ambitious and aggressive climate policies are out (it should be noted that Manchin has a financial interest in protecting the coal industry in West Virginia, as it brings in a substantial amount of income for him), and paid medical leave is likely to be reduced from twelve weeks to four weeks.
Some beneficial policies like universal pre-K are likely going to remain in the final reduced bill. Nonetheless, it is beyond frustrating that two Democrats are opposed to what the vast majority of people within their party are stumping for.
Sinema has been notoriously unclear on just what policies she supports; she reportedly avoids the media, making her rather enigmatic when it comes to just what it is that she stands for. Manchin has reportedly threatened to derail the
entire bill if Senate Democrats don’t meet his price tag, and is reportedly considering leaving the Democratic Party to be an Independent.
What’s unfortunate is that it’s very rare for a sitting president to gain congressional seats in a mid-term; it’s only happened once in several decades, that instance being the Republican Party gaining seats in the 2002 midterms when George W. Bush was president. Essentially, if precedent holds true, this razor-thin majority that the Democrats have in Congress is as good as it’s going to get for at least several years. This means Manchin and Sinema’s shutting down progressive policy proposals is preventing the Democratic Party from passing ambitious policy proposals while they have the chance.