Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Sen. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) talk to reporters after meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the U.S. Capitol on September 30, 2021 in Washington, DC.
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Progressive House Democrats have put down their marker in the debate over how to cut costs from President Joe Biden‘s sprawling economic plan.
Top Congressional Progressive Caucus members on Wednesday urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to keep all of the proposed programs in the package intact. Instead, they proposed cutting the duration of the programs in order to reduce spending. Top Democrats are deciding whether to make policies last for fewer years or scrap programs entirely in order to slash the plan’s price tag to appease centrists.
“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,” 27 lawmakers led by Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., wrote in a letter to Pelosi.
The representatives added that they believe setting up temporary programs will “establish a track record of success that will pave the way for a longterm extension of benefits.”
Democrats are locked in talks over how to structure their massive investment in the social safety net and climate programs. They aim to pass the plan, along with a bipartisan infrastructure bill already approved by the Senate, before the end of the month.
While Democrats have not agreed to a final price tag, it could end up at around $2 trillion or less, down from $3.5 trillion. Party leaders aim to win over centrist Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who could sink the proposal on their own as Democrats try to pass it without Republican votes.
As proposed now, the plan would make child care more affordable, expand paid leave and lower the Medicare eligibility age while adding dental, vision and hearing coverage. It would extend the enhanced child tax credit, create universal pre-K and make two years of community college free. It would encourage green energy adoption and the construction of weather-resilient buildings.
Democratic House members have offered a range of views on how to trim costs from the plan. In a letter to her caucus on Monday, Pelosi suggested many Democrats would rather scrap some programs entirely in order to keep others untouched.
“Overwhelmingly, the guidance I am receiving from Members is to do fewer things well,” she wrote.
Then on Tuesday, she suggested Democrats could either reduce the longevity of programs or use a combination of both approaches to cut costs. Asked what policies would get cut first in order to slash the price tag, she responded that “the timing would be reduced in many cases to make the cost lower.”
When asked whether her party would drop any programs, she responded, “We hope not.”
The progressive caucus, which can also derail a bill on its own in the House, outlined another demand in its letter to Pelosi. The lawmakers called for universal programs, rather than so-called means testing that would make only some people eligible based on income or other standards.
Manchin and other Democrats have urged party leaders to set guidelines for eligibility in order to curb spending.
The progressives wrote to Pelosi: “We can choose to strengthen the bond Americans have to one another by proposing universal social insurance benefits that broadly benefit all Americans, or we can pursue complicated methods of means testing that the wealthy and powerful will use to divide us with false narratives about ‘makers’ and ‘takers.'”