October 24, 2021

After weeks of watching what appeared to be a host of transformative policies withering on the vine, progressives have real reason for optimism.

The roughly $2 trillion bill that has taken shape this week isn't everything progressives hoped for, but it would still make historic investments in health care, child and elder care, early childhood education, and combating climate change.

By all accounts, President Joe Biden deserves a lot of credit for helping to break the logjam. On Tuesday, Biden held a marathon string of meetings, beginning with separate sessions with Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, followed by a group of House progressives, and bookended by a joint session with House and Senate moderates.

Following the meetings, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who has been a rock as leader of the Progressive Caucus, told The Hill that she and her colleagues were "even more optimistic" about reaching an agreement on the package.

Moderate Sen. Jon Tester of Montana even went so far as to correct himself for having expressed frustration at the slow pace of movement."I think we're making really good progress, better progress than I thought we were making,” Tester said after the moderates’ meeting.

“I think I told one of you nothing’s happened in the last 10 days. There’s been a lot happening in the last 10 days—I just wasn’t aware of it.”

That’s a refreshing amount of candor about the refreshing idea that, actually, things are moving in Washington.

The details of the bill are still being worked out, but Jayapal has made clear so far that progressives' priorities are still in the bill, even though they've had to scale back some of the proposals.

Manchin and Sinema have continued to be the skunks at the garden party, but Biden seems to have pinned them down on both a price tag and their red lines in the sand.

For Sinema, one red line was her vexing refusal to raise taxes on corporations and top income earners. But that opposition has produced an interesting opportunity for liberal Democrats to revisit the idea of imposing a new wealth tax on the nation’s roughly 700 billionaires. Such a tax is reportedly more appealing to Sinema and Manchin—or at least not a nonstarter—and would raise hundreds of billions in revenue.

The idea continued to gain steam Friday afternoon, with Jayapal tweeting, "The wealth of billionaires has grown astronomically throughout the pandemic, while working families have struggled to keep food on the table. It’s time to tax the rich and invest in people."

Either way, the White House has continued to maintain that the $2 trillion plan can be fully funded even without raising the corporate tax rate. "Absolutely," as White House press secretary Jen Psaki put it. Other ways to raise revenue include stronger tax enforcement and a new global minimum tax for corporations, along with a 15% minimum corporate tax rate.

After meeting with the president Friday morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Democratic members they would "aim" to vote on both the $2 trillion package and the bipartisan infrastructure deal before Oct. 31, when funding for surface transportation programs expire.

"I hope to bring both of those bills to the floor next week, if they're ready," Hoyer said from the House floor. Speaker Nancy Pelosi added that a deal was within reach.

Nothing is assured yet, but the momentum shift among Democrats is palpable. After weeks of fearing defeat, they are starting to smell victory—and that's a very enticing feeling for lawmakers who are hungry for a win.

And if the Afghanistan withdrawal took some of the sheen off the president and his White House, this week featured Biden at his best.

His CNN town hall was a work of art. Biden threaded the needle by leveling with the American people about the sausage-making, while gently nudging the process forward. Even better, Biden previewed a shift on filibuster reforms that could allow the passage of absolutely critical voting rights legislation "and maybe more."

That's a good week—a very hopeful and promising week—for Democrats, who are flirting not just with goodness, but the possibility of greatness.

Published with permission from Daily Kos.

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