House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal announced Tuesday that his committee is starting work this week on its part of the budget reconciliation bill that will comprise President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan. The committee will meet on Thursday and Friday to "mark up measures spanning from universal paid family and medical leave and access to child care to strengthening retirement savings and trade programs that prioritize American workers."
"Later this week, the Ways and Means Committee will put an end to the idea that only some workers are worthy of 'perks' like paid leave, child care, and assistance in saving for retirement, and finally commit to investments that make these supports fixtures of the American workplace," Neal said. "We will also examine how we can commit resources to modernize a key trade program that supports American workers facing hardship due to international competition, and how to fund better protections for our nation's elderly." That's a strong rebuff to Sen. Joe Manchin and a few noisy members of the House Sabotage Squad who postured last week, demanding that Congress hit the pause button on moving forward with the process.
Neal has the clear backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who rejected Manchin's grandstanding. "Obviously, I don't agree" with Manchin, she told reporters. More importantly, about going below the $3.5 trillion mark negotiators agreed to for the bill for months ago, she simply asked "Why?"
That's a very good question, one that Joe Manchin and his counterpart in Senate obstruction Kyrsten Sinema haven't bothered to answer in any detail. They simply object to the number, and make vague noises about the future and deficits while ignoring the present.
In that present, climate change is rampant. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans live in a county that has been declared a federal disaster area because of weather-related causes this summer—flood, wildfire, severe storms, hurricanes. The Washington Post reviewed federal disaster declarations and determined that on top of the one-third of Americans in disaster-declared areas, 64% "live in places that experienced a multiday heat wave—phenomena that are not officially deemed disasters but are considered the most dangerous form of extreme weather."
Answering these overwhelming disasters that is apparently not on the top of Manchin's list of to-dos. Nor is address the continuing and increasing disaster of the COVID-19 pandemic, one that's going to be exacerbated by the fact that the Supreme Court ended the eviction moratorium and that pandemic unemployment benefits have ended. There is an awful lot of pain out there and there is an huge amount of great stuff in the Biden plan to help alleviate that pain.
Like free preschool and two years of tuition-free community college for, well, everyone. It will extend the monthly payments of the new enlarged child tax credit—money to almost every family with kids at home. There's the expansion of home and community-based health care, providing living-wage jobs to the carers, and improving the lives of millions of senior and disabled people—and their families—who will be better served living in their own homes and communities. Speaking of this community, those on Medicare would get dental, vision, and hearing benefits in the program for the first time. There's the Civilian Climate Corps, based on FDR's Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, which would create jobs for by investing in natural climate solutions, clean energy, and resilience, as well as addressing environmental justice through locally-led, science-based projects.
The Ways and Means Committee has some of the key pieces of the bill, including 12 weeks of paid family/medical leave, funding for child care facilities, expansion of services under Medicare, additional funding for home- and community-based care for the elderly and disabled, and a plan to auto-enroll workers in 401(k)/IRA plans.
Let's get back to Pelosi and her key question to Manchin, Sinema and the saboteurs: "Why?" Why do they feel that any of these things aren't critical goals. Let's add to that question: "What do you want cut out of this plan?" Or perhaps, "Why are you trying to put roadblocks in the way of your president's agenda?" It shouldn't be Pelosi on the hook for answering those questions from the corporate media. It should be the so-called moderates.
Republished with permission from Daily Kos