The ambitious social program of the Joe Biden Administration, the largest expansion of the Welfare State in half a century, achieved the approval of the House of Representatives on Friday. After months of negotiations between the most progressive and moderate sectors, the Democratic majority managed to carry out this package of social and environmental measures worth 1.75 trillion dollars (1.5 trillion euros). He voted against the entire Republican bloc, which tried to torpedo the project until its last breath. A more difficult test now awaits the law, confirmation in the Senate, where the majority of the president’s party is even smaller and the blessing of its more centrist Democratic senators is not guaranteed either.
The first approval on Capitol Hill is, however, a major political victory for Biden and not without epic. Not only because of the difficulties in bringing together different sensitivities within their own ranks, in a context in addition to high inflation and complaints from companies due to a lack of manpower, but because the Republicans tried to prevent it until the very moment of the vote. Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy delivered a more than eight-hour speech throughout Thursday in order to delay the decision, breaking the record in recent history in the lower house. It started after eight thirty at night and left at five in the morning. The session resumed just three hours later, on Friday morning, and there were no more surprises: the bill obtained 220 Democratic votes in favor (only one rejected it) and 213 Republicans against.
The Speaker of the Lower House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, had warned her party’s congressmen that she was not planning on letting them go home for Thanksgiving – the quintessential national holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November – if they did not leave before approved what is something more than a star measure of the president of the United States. For Biden, the law presented on Capitol Hill is the political program with which he seeks to transcend in history the way in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt transcended with the New Deal or Lyndon B. Johnson with health coverage for the retired or disadvantaged. “This is quite exciting, this is historic, transformative,” Pelosi said Thursday.
The plan, christened with the name Build Back Better (Rebuild better) is decaffeinated when compared to the initial draft, which was budgeted at $ 3.5 trillion for 10 years, but it is still the most ambitious political reform in social material since the sixties of the last century and, certainly unprecedented in the fight against climate change. The law cuts the cost of some medicines for the elderly, promotes aid for childcare and establishes universal free preschool education, as well as home care for the elderly, among others, at the cost of raising taxes on the richest . The promise of paid maternity and sick leave remains in the air.
The question is whether the promise of not touching the rates to the middle classes and workers is compatible with the cost of these programs, something that Republicans reject and that worries centrist Democratic senators, such as Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent body attached to the Capitol, published its calculations precisely on Thursday and estimated at 160,000 million dollars (140,000 million euros) the additional net deficit within 10 years.
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The estimated impact on the federal deficit reaches 367,000 million dollars, but does not take into account the 207,000 million that the US Treasury, according to the office’s calculations, would obtain from its fight against tax fraud, with which the final imbalance would remain in about 160,000 million. The White House had considered that this chapter would allow up to 400,000 million more to enter the public coffers in 10 years, so it considers that the plan, in total, would not only not increase the deficit, but would even reduce it.
Biden signed another ambitious bill on Monday, a $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, which had been supported by up to 13 Republican congressmen, crystallizing his aspiration for bipartisan deals. It will be more difficult with this social plan in the Senate. Democrats and Republicans are equal in seats, 50 to 50, although the vice president of the country, Kamala Harris, exercises the vote that decides in cases of tie. But they cannot afford to lose a single support within the party. And to achieve this, a new round of conversations begins now. The changes incorporated into the text must be endorsed in turn in the lower house. Decisive weeks remain.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.