Progressives Offer to Scale Back Spending to Advance Biden’s Agenda

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg News/TNS) -
President Joe Biden leaves a coffee shop in Wilmington, Del., Sunday. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

House progressives looking for ways to rescue President Joe Biden’s stalled domestic agenda opened the door to scaling back some of their more ambitious social spending by having those programs expire rather than be permanent.

“One of the ideas out there is to fully fund what we can fully fund, but instead of funding it for 10 years, fund it for five years,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat and leading progressive voice, on CBS.

Democrats are looking for ways out of their deadlock three days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scuttled a planned vote on a $550 billion infrastructure package. She retreated as progressives balked at a stand-alone bill without the $3.5 trillion social safety-net spending and tax increases they want.

Progressives say they’re willing to compromise on that number — within limits. The chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus flatly rejected Sen. Joe Manchin’s offer of $1.5 trillion in social spending.

“That’s not going to happen,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., told CNN on Sunday. “Because that’s too small to get our priorities in. So, it’s going to be somewhere between $1.5 (trillion) and $3.5 (trillion). And I think the White House is working on that right now, because, remember, what we want to deliver is child care, paid leave, climate change, housing.”

On Thursday, Manchin said he was willing to accept as much as $1.5 trillion if it meant getting infrastructure passed, and if liberal Democrats want more they should “elect more liberals.”

Jayapal said reducing the length of time for authorizing that spending could provide a path forward. Federal budget rules tally spending in 10-year budget windows, so authorizing spending for only five years would significantly cut down the price tag.

Cedric Richmond, a White House senior adviser, wouldn’t commit to a timeline or a price tag. But he said having programs expire could be a possibility. “We don’t look at this as a number. We look at this as what programs are we going to deliver?” he told Fox News.

“Those decisions will be made in conjunction with members of Congress. But there is unity of purpose,” he said. “If that fight comes back in 2025, 2026 or any other year, we’re going to prepared to fight for it, and the American people will know just how important it is.”

There are some parts of Biden’s Build Back Better plan that progressives say are non-negotiable. Climate programs need to be funded throughout the 10-year budget window to ensure that the U.S. can meet global emissions targets, Jayapal said.

“The clean-electricity standards really do need to be in there for a 10-year period, because it takes time to cut carbon emissions,” she said. “And we need to have that certainty in order for the market to move in that direction.”