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Congress is preparing to pass an historic $1.75 trillion spending bill within the next week, but only if Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin approve. Thanks to these two Democrats, a package that was originally $3.5 trillion dollars is now just half that. And, so far, both have refused to guarantee they will vote for the latest version.
The original version of the bill included a number of different programs aimed at addressing educational, economic and social disparities. And to pay for it, the nation would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations. But these two Senators would have none of it.
So, what exactly have Manchin and Sinema cost America? Quite a bit.
A look at all that America lost out on because of Manchin and Sinema
The original plan would have provided young Americans with the opportunity to access two free years of community college. It would have provided families with twelve weeks of guaranteed paid medical leave. The bill would have expanded the child tax credit monthly payments for another five years. It would have provided senior Americans on Medicare to have access to dental, health and vision coverage and it would have allowed Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs. The bill would have even pushed energy companies to move away from fossil fuels and toward clean and renewable fuels.
Joe Manchin opposed all of this. As the Senator of West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the country, he fought against monthly child tax credit payments without work requirements and believed paid family leave shouldn’t exist within a budget bill. And, as the Senator with the most campaign donations from coal and fossil fuel companies, he fought against passing what would have been the strongest method to combat climate change the United States has ever put forth.
Kyrsten Sinema ensured these measures failed as well. She lobbied against raising tax rates on large corporations, even though the bill would have raised them to a level still lower than when Barack Obama was president. More recently, she has voiced opposition to taxing billionaires, making it increasingly difficult to pay for the package.
Together, two Senators managed to singlehandedly cut $1.75 trillion in potential funding from programs to help every day Americans.
The bill is still good, but it could have been transformational
Yes, the latest version of the bill still includes funding for meaningful programs like Universal Pre-K. And it expands medicaid access to a dozen states, increases Pell grant funding, secures childcare support and more. The bill as it stands will also provide more than half a trillion dollars to combat climate change over the course of the next decade.
The bill is still good. If passed, it will be an accomplishment worth celebrating and will be something to build on well into the future. However, it is not great. It is not the system-shaking bill that it could have been. This bill was poised to be the New Deal of this generation. But two Senators who were more concerned with politics than good policy stopped all that. Now, even after pushing for so much to be cut, neither will publicly commit to a “yes” vote in the bill’s current form.
There is still abundant opportunity for Democrats to build on this progress and keep promises kept to the American people during the election. However, if all the power continues to rest with two people who won’t fight to give their constituents something better, Democrats can expect to lose both the House and the Senate in 2022.
And if they do, they will have no one to blame but themselves.