Biden Admits He Will Have to 'Build Back Better' With Less, Is ‘Not Going to Get $3.5 Trillion’
The size of Joe Biden’s much-touted $3.5 trillion Build Back Better economic plan, aimed, among other things, at expanding child care, paid leave, Medicare, extending enhanced household tax credits and promoting green energy, has met with both staunch Republican opposition and driven a wedge between progressive and moderate Democrats.
US President Joe Biden appeared to fully acknowledge
on Friday that despite repeatedly vowing to “get it done” and push though his $3.5 trillion spending bill
, the price tag would have to be scaled back.
As he spoke at the Capitol Child Development Center in Hartford, Connecticut, Biden admitted that his signature campaign promise of delivering the Build Back Better Agenda would require reducing the scope of the massively ambitious bill.
"When I hear people say it costs $3.5 trillion, I'll be honest with you, we're probably not going to get $3.5 trillion this year. We're gonna get something less than that, but I'm going to negotiate. I'm going to get it done," said the president.
Throughout his speech at the child care center the POTUS touted his two bills as critical to remedying a situation that has placed America’s infrastructure “from the best in the world” to 13th, according to the World Economic Forum. Biden underscored that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development also ranked the US 35 out of 37 major countries in terms of investing in early childhood education and care.
At this point, the Democratic president reiterated that the two “critical pieces of legislation” debated in Washington were “about opportunity versus decay, and about leading the world or continuing to let the world move by us”.
He hailed his Build Back Better Initiative as a “life changer,” the cost of which, in terms of adding to the deficit, was zero. Biden emphasised that “big corporations and the very wealthy ought to start paying their fair share”.
Nevertheless, at the end of the remarks, Joe Biden again conceded that the price tag of the proposed spending bill would be less than his team had pushed for.
"I'm convinced we're going to get it done. We're not going to get $3.5 trillion… We'll get less than that, but we're going to get it, and we're going to come back and get the rest."
The need to revise the size of the gigantic $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan has been floated on several occasions by the Democrats. The party holds a slim majority in the House, and with the Senate split 50-50, lawmakers cannot afford to lose a single vote.
But apart from the Republican opposition to the outsize bill, the issue has split
progressive and moderate Democrats. Particularly vehement opposition to the proposed spending has come from centrist Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
Manchin has indicated that he won’t support anything exceeding a $1.5 trillion price tag. One of the crucial parts of Joe Biden’s climate change-tackling initiative, the clean electricity programme, is likely to be axed due to opposition from Manchin, who represents the coal and natural gas rich state of West Virginia. The programme would have committed $150 billion to shift power plants away from coal and natural gas and towards wind and solar energy. The NYT earlier reported that Senator Sinema “wants to cut at least $100 billion from climate programmes” in the reconciliation bill.
After the House reconvened to clear the Senate-passed short-term extension of the debt ceiling
that will allow the Treasury to meet the nation’s financial obligations into December, the back-and-forth over the $3.5 trillion House reconciliation bill continued.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has suggested that Democrats could be forced to cut major parts of US President Joe Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion economic plan to get it through Congress.
In an October 11 letter, Pelosi stated:
“Overwhelmingly, the guidance I am receiving from Members is to do fewer things well so that we can still have a transformative impact on families in the workplace and responsibly address the climate crisis: a Build Back Better agenda for jobs and the planet For The Children!”
However, in a news conference on 12 October the Speaker said reducing the cost of the package could involve “cutting back on years”. She added she hoped they wouldn’t have to drop parts of the plan and refused to speculate on what those parts might be. “We have some important decisions to make in the next few days so that we can proceed,” the Speaker said.
Democrats are reportedly considering options such as shortening the length of funding for programs to keep as many policies as possible, while simultaneously trimming down the overall amount of the spending.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, speaking on Pod Save America on Thursday, added that negotiations were at a "messy, messy phase" and that centrists were shaking their "peacock feathers" while "arguing for what they think is most important".
"It's not going to be everything that Joe Biden wants. It's not going to be everything Joe Manchin wants or Kyrsten Sinema wants — or Pramila Jayapal or any member of Congress… It's ultimately a compromise, and you try to get to the best package possible," she added.