Why Biden's Build Back Better Plan Unlikely to Save Dems From Resounding Defeat in 2022
18:33 GMT 08.11.2021 (Updated: 13:59 GMT 19.12.2022)
A bipartisan $1.2 trillion bill was passed in the House on 5 November while President Joe Biden's bigger $1.85 trillion Build Back Better plan is temporarily shelved – as American lawmakers wait for the Congressional Budget Office's assessments to see if the revenue measures it proposes will pay for the bill’s initiatives.
Even though the $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation was described as a "bipartisan" measure, 13 GOP House lawmakers were subjected to criticism from their party fellows for voting for the "wasteful spending." At the same time, six progressive Democrats, the so-called "Squad," did not endorse the bill. "It’s about making a promise and sticking with it," said Ilhan Omar while explaining why she voted against the bipartisan bill. The legislation had earlier been passed in the US Senate and went directly to Biden's desk.
Meanwhile, Biden's signature $1.85 trillion plan – a revamped version of the $3.5 trillion social spending programme – met opposition from moderate Democrats who insist that it should be weighed by the CBO first.
Moderate Dems' Rebellion
While neither Democrats nor Republicans appear to be unified on Biden's bold plans, the forthcoming vote on the $1.85 trillion plan isn't a done deal, according to Tom Luongo, a geopolitical analyst and publisher of the Gold Goats'n Guns Newsletter. He expects more infighting within the Democratic Party over the Build Back Better Act.
One should not expect any rebellion from the maverick "Squad" and other progressives who are eager to vote for the Build Back Better Act "unless they believe the bill was too watered down," deems Ed Miller, professor in the Political Science department at the University of Wisconsin. But, when it comes to moderate Democrats, there are at least two senators who may throw sand in the legislation's gears, namely Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Biden's social spending package will come in the form of a "reconciliation bill," which will help it avoid the GOP's filibuster and will require a simple majority in the US Senate. At the same time, however, every Democratic vote will be needed, which makes Manchin and Sinema's position extremely important.
"Moving on to the BBB Act, Sen. Joe Manchin is now the key player, obviously," Luongo says. "Pressure on him will be insane. But, he’s bought himself a few weeks by saying he’ll wait for the CBO report."
Manchin and Sinema have repeatedly come under fierce criticism from party fellows for urging Biden to reduce the price tag of his landmark $3.5 trillion plan. After the latter was revamped and shrunk to $1.85 trillion, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week brought "parental leave" back to the revised bill, despite Manchin's criticism of the measure. When asked whether he would back the paid family leave, the West Virginia senator signalled that such a policy should only be passed with bipartisan support through separate legislation.
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Will Biden's Build Back Better Plan Transform Americans' Future?
Since the spending and tax relief commitments have been cut in half from the original bill, the current version is less “transformational” than it might have been, according to Daniel Palazzolo, chairman of the political science department at the University of Richmond.
"It does make new commitments to expanding child care and combating climate change, but most of the provisions modify existing programs, including tax credits that reduce poverty among children, extended Medicare benefits, and additional support for the Affordable Care Act," the professor says. "Like many large bills, it also contains particular targeted benefits, like raising the state and local tax deduction, which seems focused mainly on states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and the like, that have high tax burdens - so taxpayers in heavily taxed and mainly Democratic states will get a break."
For his part, Luongo warns that the $1.85 trillion bill's new administrative powers, snooping, regulations on travel, cryptocurrencies, etc. "will continue to strangle the middle class." Both Biden's bills "are technocratic nightmares which should always be opposed root and branch," he notes, adding that as a libertarian he regards them "not only wasteful but immoral."
"[Still] the problem for everyone is that the argument for this spending is fading," Luongo notes. "Inflation is raging. Biden took credit for the new Jobs Report, even though it was simply Holiday temp hiring, and the Fed is in opposition to the rest of the central banks, committing to ending quantitative easing (QE). Expect [Federal Reserve Chairman] Jerome Powell to talk about hiking rates in 2022 the minute he’s reappointed as FOMC Chair."
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Nothing Would Save Dems from Defeat
Last week Democrats suffered defeat in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election with Republican Glenn Youngkin coming out on top. The state has been regarded as a blue stronghold for the past decade. Some observers suggested that theDemocratic candidate's defeat was caused by the party's inability to pass any of its landmark measures in the US Congress. This prompted a number of Democratic lawmakers to chastise the party for failing to pass the $1.2 infrastructure bill ahead of the Virginia vote, which could have given Dems a legislative victory to campaign on.
"It would have been better to have a positive legislative record," agrees Ed Miller, suggesting, however, that the issues in the state contests were focused more on state government than national matters.
Daniel Palazzolo also believes that the result of the Virginia election had as much or more to do with local or state issues, like education and public safety. The professor believes that the Biden initiatives' effect on electoral politics is more likely to affect House and Senate races in 2022, according to him.
For his part, Luongo deems that Democrats are kidding themselves by thinking that the passage of Biden's programme would improve their election odds either in a state or nation-wide. He also believes that nothing could save Democrats from the 2022 midterms defeat.
"The Democrats… know they are losing the midterms," the analyst says. "They are already in damage control mode, hoping to only lose a couple dozen seats rather than the historic wipeout they are now facing. This is why Pelosi called in every marker and used everyone’s hatred of The Squad to get the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed but is still facing a stiff House on the Build Back Better bill."
Miller does not rule out that the Dems may face a defeat, arguing that this is largely linked to a historic trend:
"Going forward the party in the White House typically loses seats in the midterm elections," he says. "There have been only two minor and explainable exceptions to this rule since 1934. At issue is the magnitude of the loss, which is dependent on the popularity of the president and the state of the economy."
Meanwhile, Biden's approval rating is continuing to plummet triggering the Democratic Party's concerns. Suffolk University's latest poll found that Biden’s rating has fallen to 38 percent. The survey also indicated that 46 percent of respondents believe Biden is doing a worse job as president than expected, including 16 percent of those who voted for him last year.