Listen to this article here
After a tumultuous three months for the Biden administration, good news may finally be on the horizon. Two critical pieces of the President’s Build Back Better agenda may pass Congress and reach his desk this week.
The American Families Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, would inject a combined $3 trillion into the economy over a decade. Combined, these bills will lay the groundwork for a progressive legislative agenda not seen in over half a century.
“This is a generation-changing investment,” said Trey Baker, White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement. “This is going to immediately help millions of people in this country.”
Baker to the BWSTimes that the mood around the White House is “optimistic” as both the President and leaders in Congress have signaled they are close to reaching a deal.
Getting to this point of optimism, however, has been a long and difficult road for the administration. In addition to facing stark opposition from Republicans, the President also struggled to unite his own party.
Biden navigates party infighting to find common ground
Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ) have proven to be the biggest roadblocks in the party’s path to progress. When Biden first proposed the American Families Plan, it alone came with a price-tag of more than $3.5 Trillion. That money included a decade of investment in education, children, healthcare expansion and combatting the growing threat of climate change.
Manchin and Sinema, however, tanked the original plan. Manchin (who owns millions of dollars in coal stock) fought against the initial plan to penalize utilities that don’t switch to green energy. Sinema, for her part, reportedly balked at the notion of raising taxes slightly on the wealthy and corporations to fund the larger plan.
Just a week ago, it appeared as though the whole plan may have been in danger of falling apart. Progressives in the House and Senate were threatening to pull their support if efforts to curb climate change were removed. Manchin then retorted by threatening to leave the Democratic Party altogether if his demands weren’t met.
Meanwhile, administration officials hurriedly held meetings with key legislators as the President criss-crossed the country to sell the plan to the American people. For Biden, a deal was crucial. With his approval ratings in free-fall, the future of his presidency hung in the balance. After tense negotiations, all signs indicate that a compromise will be announced within days.
Now, ten months into his Presidency and one year from a pivotal midterm election, it appears Biden may be on the verge of an historic legislative achievement by passing key pieces of his “Build Back Better” agenda. However, according to Baker, one problem still remains:
“Very often, people don’t know what’s in it.”
What the historic ‘Build Back Better’ investment in families, infrastructure and jobs will mean for Americans
Baker is right. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 10% of Americans had a strong understanding of what is likely to be in the two bills. Negotiations are ongoing, but there’s growing clarity around final recommendations. Here’s what we know about how these bills could affect you if passed:
For parents, these bills:
- Fund universal Pre-K for all children ages 3 and 4
- Fund $82 Billion over ten years for school infrastructure improvements
- Cap the total amount family will have to spend on childcare at a state-licensed facility at 7% of their income
- Extend the child tax credit (monthly payments for families with children) through 2022
- Ensure four weeks of paid family leave to every American
For seniors, these bills:
- Allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs to lower out-of-pocket expenses
- Expand Medicare benefits to include vision, hearing and dental coverage, though it’s unclear exactly what form this expansion will take.
- Expand funding for in-home care takers, even allowing family members to be paid a living wage to take care of their loved ones if needed.
To combat climate change, these bills:
- Include up to roughly $12,000 in tax rebates for switching to an electric vehicle in the next 5 years
- Extend tax credits to home and business owners who switch to renewable energy and retrofit their home for more energy efficiency
For communities with poor infrastructure, these bills:
- Invest $550 billion in new roads, bridges and public transportation
- Invest billions into replacing lead piping in cities across the country
- Make the largest investment in clean energy and electric vehicles in history
- Expand access to broadband internet to every American
While often left out of the headlines, the bills will also fund other major efforts, like a $5 Billion program to help formerly justice-involved individuals start new businesses.
Potential for historic investments spark both hope and an urgency to do more
Democrats seem poised to unite around common ground for both bills, but the end result will be nowhere near what the president initially proposed. Both Biden’s infrastructure plan and his American Families Plan have seen their total funding cut in half since he announced them in April. Many progressives who were hoping for sweeping changes to education, childcare, healthcare and environmental protection are left disappointed.
Analysts argue, however, that the Build Back Better legislation will still lay a critical foundation for the country to build upon in the years to come.
In advocating for a common ground version of the plan, White House Senior Advisor Trey Baker amplified these sentiments.
“We have a common end goal in sight to invest and create good jobs, lower taxes for middle class Americans and make life more sustainable and affordable for working families,” Baker told The BWSTimes.
“Across the board,” he said, “we’re going to be a better country on the other side of this.”