Progressive groups are calling on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to restart negotiations on the fiscal reconciliation package that contains the core of President Joe Biden’s social and climate agenda, which was passed by the House under the banner of “Building Back Better” before stalling in the Senate last year.
Refusals by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and other centrists to support the legislation prevented the slim Democratic majority in the Senate from reaching the 50-member consensus necessary for it to pass. The bill should have gone through the special “budget reconciliation” process to dodge the Republican filibuster in the equally divided Senate.
Social and environmental rights advocates stress that there is still a need to adopt the policies contained in the Build Back Better Bill. Democrats are currently rallying around proposed spending on climate and clean energy programs, and progressive groups say relief for workers and families is badly needed due to the rising cost of fuel, food and other necessities.
In an open space letter to Schumer released on Monday, a coalition of more than 120 progressive organizations said the urgency behind the legislation is even greater now than when the House passed its version in November 2021. Schumer is expected to resume negotiations on the legislation “energetically” , the groups said, and sections of the bill where there is “meaningful agreement” should start going through committees now.
“Workers are facing rising costs for food, healthcare and other necessities and median rent prices have risen 20% in 2021, deepening a nationwide housing crisis,” the groups wrote. “Taking action to decarbonize and build a green economy is becoming more urgent by the day.”
Biden and many Democrats hoped to fund new climate initiatives and make a series of social investments through fiscal reconciliation, but Manchin balked at the original. $1.7 trillion the price tag and proposals to move the country away from coal and other fossil fuels, arguing that further spending would add to inflation. However, Manchin has signaled he could back a revised package that funds new programs with taxes on corporations and the wealthy that could also be used to cut the federal deficit, a top priority for the conservative Democrat. according to to reports.
Even though Manchin backs a new package, there are concerns that Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the other conservative Democrat who helped sink Build Back Better in the Senate last year, will oppose the proposed tax hikes. on corporations and high earners. The votes of both senators are needed to pass the package.
The package appears to be undergoing a rebrand. Biden didn’t say the words “Build Back Better” in his recent State of the Union address, and Schumer didn’t mention Build Back Better by name in a recent letter to colleagues who outlined Democratic priorities ahead of a retreat for lawmakers.
“As a reconciliation, Senate Democrats introduced additional legislative proposals to reduce the rising cost of energy, prescription drugs, and health care, as well as the costs of raising a family,” Schumer wrote. to his fellow Democrats. “Senate Democrats are focused on delivering on our promise to fight these rising costs.”
The coalition of progressive groups that released the open letter to Schumer on Monday also did not use the words Build Back Better. They instead called the legislation a “reconciliation package”.
It remains to be seen whether the package will receive a new name. Either way, progressives are pushing Democrats to push as much of the original package through the Senate as possible, which may require breaking the bill into smaller individual bills.
In one letter in Biden on Monday, a group of 89 House Democrats said the $555 billion in climate investments included in the bill passed by the House could serve as a “building block” to restart negotiations.
The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that the window of opportunity to save a sustainable future is closing fast. People across the United States have felt the effects of climate change in the form of extreme weather and raging wildfires over the past year. Given widespread agreement on the Senate bill’s climate provisions, the lawmakers wrote, the climate measures provide Biden and Schumer with a “key starting point” for negotiations.
“Responding now will protect American families and businesses from the most devastating financial impacts,” they wrote. “But the longer we wait, the more costly it will be to make the transition at the required speed, and we will have suffered billions in damage and harm to our communities, infrastructure, environment and public health and safety along the way. .”
Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, said Democrats had a mandate to fulfill after voters gave them control of Congress and the White House in 2020.
“They can rightfully take credit for significant accomplishments, especially the US bailout,” Mitchell said in a statement. “But with the expanded Child Tax Credit expiring and with investments in children and families, health care, eldercare, housing and the climate at stake, the job is unfinished.”