As Democrats seek a compromise on President Biden’s multitrillion-dollar "Build Back Better" agenda, progressive lawmakers are warning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi against making cuts to the scope of their preferred social spending programs.
In a letter to Pelosi, leaders of the House Progressive Caucus said a "majority" of their 96 members prefer a package that makes "shorter, transformative investments" for fewer than 10 years, rather than cutting proposals for child care or housing out of the deal entirely. Key moderate holdouts, including Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, have said they won’t support the spending bill without major cost reductions.
"We have been told that we can either adequately fund a small number of investments or legislate broadly, but only make a shallow, short-term impact. We would argue that this is a false choice," the House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal and other leaders said in the letter.
The letter highlighted the philosophical divide between progressives and moderates on Biden’s bill, which originally called for $3.5 trillion in spending over 10 years. Biden indicated to House lawmakers in recent days that they would likely have to accept a compromise maximum of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion.
Republicans universally oppose the social spending bill, arguing Biden’s plan is fiscally irresponsible and would hurt the U.S. economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has referred to the bill as a "Trojan Horse for permanent socialism."
Earlier this week, Pelosi warned House Democrats it was "essential that difficult decisions must be made very soon" to ensure passage of Biden’s spending bill and the separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill focused on physical infrastructure.
In their letter, the progressive lawmakers said the entirety of Biden’s spending plan is "overwhelmingly popular" with Americans. They urged Pelosi to avoid an agreement that would "pit child care against housing, or paid leave against home and community-based care" while drafting the final bill.
"If given a choice between legislating narrowly or broadly, we strongly encourage you to choose the latter and make robust investments over a shorter window," the progressives said. "Tax expenditures should also be treated the same way as direct investments."
The ongoing dispute between two wings of the Democratic party threatens to derail Biden’s signature pieces of legislation.
Earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a key progressive leader, said he viewed the inclusion of enhanced Medicare benefits in the spending bill as "not negotiable." Jayapal and the House Progressive Caucus backed that assertion.