Congress Prepares for Vote On $3.5 Trillion Economic Plan

August 23, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
In this Aug. 10, 2021, photo, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks regarding the Emergency Rental Assistance program in San Francisco. Nine moderate House Democrats are trying to upend leaders' plans for enacting President Joe Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar domestic agenda. This week, they face a showdown. The nine are outnumbered and their party’s most powerful leaders are against them - Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (AP Photo/Nick Otto, File)

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress returned from their summer recess Monday to hammer out an agreement on President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” economic stimulus plan.

They are running into strong headwinds from Republicans as they prepare for a key vote on the Biden plan this week.

“This is really dangerous stuff that we’re doing right now,” said Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., during a meeting Monday of the House Rules Committee.

Even some moderate Democrats are hesitating over the big bill Congress would need to pay for the package.

Graves said he did not oppose infrastructure spending but added, “I’m opposed to reckless, irresponsible investing.”

The vote is expected to be partly a test of the Biden administration as the president’s popular approval rating dipped last week slightly below 50% for the first time amid the crisis in Afghanistan.

The $550 billion infrastructure part of the Build Back Better Plan emphasizes spending on bridges, railroads, electrical transmission lines and similar backbone projects. 

Other parts of the plan advocate spending on COVID-19 relief, childcare, education and creation of clean energy jobs.

Biden says the investments will pay for themselves through improved economic performance. His Republican critics say the plan would add excessively to the federal deficit, thereby burdening future generations to pay for it.

The Democratic leadership spent much of Monday trying to reach an agreement on how to proceed with the vote.

Some Democrats want the $550 billion for infrastructure to be a separate vote because of the near certainty it would pass by a broad bipartisan margin. They are concerned the infrastructure spending will get cut when the House and Senate try to reconcile their different bills into a single piece of legislation.

The moderates, such as Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., wrote an editorial that was published in The Washington Post Sunday explaining their reasoning.

They wrote that they are “firmly opposed to holding the president’s infrastructure legislation hostage to reconciliation, risking its passage and the bipartisan support behind it.”

However, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wants one vote on the entire $3.5 trillion package.

“In addition to building the infrastructure of our country, we want to build the personal infrastructure of our country,” Pelosi said during an online town hall meeting with her constituents last week.

She said the Build Back Better Plan would offer “more jobs, more support for families and bold climate action.”

As the proposed legislation moves toward a final vote, the Biden administration put out a statement Monday trying to drum up support by promoting it as a boost for “Main Street” America.

“President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda will crack down on the unfair tax schemes that give big corporations a leg up,” the statement says. “According to a new Treasury Department analysis, the President’s Agenda will protect 97% of small business owners from income tax rate increases, while delivering tax cuts to more than 3.9 million entrepreneurs.”

It added, “The revenue raised from creating a fairer tax system for Main Street will help pay for investments that will grow our economy and create jobs, including investments in small business.”

The Build Back Better legislation could fail if only three Democrats vote against it.

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