A legislative impasse is broken; others are waiting | 2021-11-25
WASHINGTON – Two competing forces have tied legislation in Washington for most of 2021. One is centripetal, pulling politics towards a bipartisan center, better represented by the physical infrastructure bill that the Senate passed in August but who languished in the House. The other is centrifugal, pulling politics towards the extremes of the respective political parties.
On the Democrats’ side, it is the President’s Build Back Better (BBB) ââbill and its $ 3.5 trillion price tag. On the side of the Republicans, it is their refusal to participate in the adoption of a new legislation on the limitation of the debt, even if they bear part of the responsibility in the deficit and know that a default of the United States is not an option.
The stalemate created by these conflicting forces may have started to break down on November 5, when the House passed the Physical Infrastructure Bill – estimated at $ 1 trillion in spending on roads, bridges, broadband, climate change adaptation and public transport over the next 10 years. – with the help of 13 Republican votes and only 6 Democratic defections. President Joe Biden had worked the phones to achieve this and will sign it into law.
Part of the deal that unlocked this measure was the agreement of centrist Democrats in the House to vote for a reduced BBB bill once its estimated cost of $ 1.85 trillion was assessed by the government. impartial congressional budget office. The Build Back Better bill contains spending plans of varying lengths on child care, health care, climate change, family leave, and drug prices. It also contains new tax provisions for large corporations and high net worth individuals intended to offset part of its costs. It was downsized from its original size of $ 3.5 trillion in an effort to gain support from West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
President Biden’s original proposals for increasing corporate tax rates and personal income above $ 400,000 have been superseded by current tax ideas in response to Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s objections to increasing corporate tax rates. taxation of individuals and companies.
Many obstacles remain to be overcome for this âsocial infrastructureâ measure to become law. One wonders if the measure is cost effective, as President Biden has insisted, and if some of the tactics used – such as authorizing new programs for just a few years to keep estimated costs low even if expected. that the programs continue. – will be accepted by the centrist members of Congress. Moreover, it is not clear whether Senators Manchin and Sinema will find the changes that have been made good enough to win their votes, and it is possible that more progressive members will oppose the concessions made to date, such as the family leave.
With no Republican senator yet to express willingness to support this bill in one form or another, Democrats cannot afford to lose their party’s support.
In the background, the question of raising the debt ceiling. In the past, this has led to political maneuvering on the brink, including government shutdowns. Ultimately, however, a solution was found. Senator Mitch McConnell has said so far that it will be up to Democrats to find the votes within their own party to avoid default. This may well play a part in the drama surrounding efforts to pass the Build Back Better bill.
All the pressures and conflicting forces have not played out in Washington. A major international backdrop was the 26th Conference of the Parties, the United Nations-sponsored conclave in Glasgow, Scotland, seeking new commitments to mitigate climate change.
National leaders from various countries – but not all of the big polluters, like Russia and China – have pledged to wean their economies off fossil fuels at various dates in the future, ranging from 2030 to 2060. That has not been satisfied. most of the demonstrators protesting outside the conference hall, many of whom are quite young. Unlike national leaders who gravitate towards modest or centrist positions, these young protesters are currently trying to drag politicians into more drastic actions. Their frustrations could have far-reaching political consequences in the future.
In several local elections in the United States, ranging from statewide offices in Virginia and New Jersey to local referendums like the race for mayor of New York or to “spend the police” in Minneapolis, the same play of forces can be observed. Most of the results seem to indicate a growing preference for centrist politicians and candidates over more progressive programs and candidates.
This apparent message will potentially continue until the 2022 midterm election, and it will also likely weigh on deliberations in the House from the week of November 15 and thereafter in the Senate on the Build Back Better bill. . In perhaps its simplest terms, many political experts increasingly feel that it is more important to get things done on pressing issues than to legislate according to the ideal preferences of some.
Still, it seems unlikely that the Progressive House Caucus and Speaker Biden will easily reduce their goals on some of the more controversial issues, such as clean energy mandates, immigration reform and paid family leave. These are all goals that marked the 2020 presidential election, whether or not they were what attracted record numbers of voters on both sides. Nor does it seem likely that Senators Manchin and Sinema will be easily dismissed from their opposition to the size and fundraising ideas behind the progressive agenda. And Republican leaders seem unlikely to come up with other compromise ideas, hoping instead that the political winds have started to blow in their favor.
All of this makes for an interesting late fall in Congress. President Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer put their political reputations on the line by rallying their Democratic Party. Centrist Democrats in the House have vowed to vote for the BBB Act, if the Congressional Budget Office says it’s paying for itself. And progressives have promised to try to strengthen some of its characteristics, recovering some of the compromises made.
Without much Republican cooperation, that likely leaves the United States without much bipartisan governance as a result of the Physical Infrastructure Act and a lot of uncertainty as to whether Democrats can find a way to govern on their own.