Speaker Nancy Pelosi has only a three-vote Democratic margin in the House, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has no margin in the 50-50 Senate—meaning Vice President Kamala Harris to break any tie vote when it comes to passing progressive legislation. The result, understandably, is that the Democrats have to use the reconciliation process to get their entire agenda approved because Republicans won’t support anything.
That means whatever the Democrats can’t squeeze into the reconciliation budget bill now before Congress will have essentially no hope of being passed with the current lineups in the House and Senate.
Unfortunately, this situation has led to a vigorous national debate, not about the content of the reconciliation bill, but instead about its cost. We hear that the president and the overwhelming majority of the Democrats are calling for a $3.5 trillion package, down sharply from the $6 trillion originally pushed by the progressive majority among the Dems. We hear Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, both conservative right-wing Democrats beholden largely to big business—along with a host of so-called “centrist” Dems in the House—saying they would support no more than $1 trillion or $2 trillion.
So the debate is raging over dollar amounts that tell us absolutely nothing about what’s actually in the bills. Disagreements about money are meaningless if we don’t look at what it’s supposed to be funding.
A $3.5-trillion-dollar package that greases the path to even more obscene wealth for the ruling class would be absolutely unacceptable, for instance. A package which includes all kinds of taxes on working people to pay for everything would be unacceptable—economically, morally, and ethically. A $2-trillion-dollar reconciliation bill passed by Republicans under Trump that went to tax cuts for the rich was absolutely horrendous.
But a $3.5-trillion-dollar package that includes the continuation of monthly $300 child tax credit checks so the nation’s children don’t go hungry is a good thing. Putting kids on a healthy, firm foundation for the future will help make the package pay for itself.
A $3.5-trillion-dollar package that includes the cost of rebuilding the crumbling schools to which we send our children and the cost of improving education creates a workforce for the future that will more than offset the cost of that package.
Sen. Bernie Sanders asked Thursday, on national television: “How much is too much to pay to keep the planet from going down altogether 50 years from now? Will we look back then and ask whether we spent enough?” A $3.5-trillion-dollar package that, if implemented, does indeed save the planet would be a wise investment.
These elements and many more that are massively popular are in the $3.5-trillion-dollar package now being considered in Congress. They, like the American Rescue Plan that was passed earlier, have the support of Biden and progressives.
As mentioned, since the Republicans oppose any and all of these plans, regardless of cost, they can only be passed by the reconciliation process—which will require unanimous support of all Democratic legislators. When the so-called “centrist” Dems tell us they are opposed to spending so much, they should be forced by the media to tell us exactly what they would cut from the package.
Do you want to take away the monthly checks that keep the nation’s children out of poverty, Sen. Sinema?
Do you want the pharmaceutical giants to keep someone with Parkinson’s disease continuing, just to stay alive, to pay $5,000 a month for one of his or her bottles of pills, Sen. Manchin?
Do you want your great-grandchildren to wear oxygen masks 24-hours-a-day because climate change has devastated the quality of the air they breathe, Sen. Sinema?
To all the handful of Democratic “moderates”: Who exactly among our people do you want to throw under the bus?
Are you so cynical and crass that you care not that this also may be our last chance to end the worst effects of this awful pandemic?
Do you care so much for the corporate sponsors in whose pockets you sit and so little for your people that you would sabotage this one chance we have to turn things around in this country?
And perhaps most important, have you no shame?
John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union’s campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and ’80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.