President Joe Biden accepted the realities of the Capitol Hill gridlock at his long news conference this week, announcing that he will shift tactics on his hallmark Build Back Better act and attempt to pass it in sections.
“I’m confident that significant portions of the Build Back Better legislation will be signed into law,” he told the gathering press.
Later in the event, the president emphasized two points: $500 billion in energy and climate change investments and universal preschool for children.
Biden added that Joe Manchin, the Democratic West Virginia senator who opposes Build Back Better in its entirety, “strongly supports” these proposals.
During a Yahoo Finance Live interview on Thursday, Biden’s senior economic adviser added a couple of additional items to the mix that may become law in 2022.
“The good news is that there is widespread support among Democrats and the American public” for four distinct sectors, according to Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council.
He argues that prescription medication coverage, health care, and child care, as well as investments in sustainable energy, are all on the table.
Deese has been deeply engaged in the Build Back Better talks for months, often traveling to Capitol Hill to represent the White House while legislators labored for months to achieve an agreement.
Climate ‘is a preference.
Any piecemeal strategy taken in the months ahead would almost certainly need Senate reconciliation, which can be accomplished with just Democratic votes.
That would imply that Senators Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona would continue to play outsized roles.
The president and Deese believe that the energy and environment components would pass muster with Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin.
“Investing in clean energy and building a more robust energy system in the United States [that] generates cheaper, zero-carbon energy in the United States is a priority,” Deese adds.
Climate aspects in the Biden plan were already reduced in October, when senators, primarily at Manchin’s urging, repealed the Renewable Electricity Performance Program, which would have punished utility firms for failing to embrace clean energy quickly enough.
Future climate change initiatives will be concentrated on tax credits to incentivize the energy industry to create more clean energy, among other things.
The Build Back Better framework includes funding for universal, free preschool for all three and four-year-olds in childcare.
Additionally, it contains subsidies for even younger children’s child care, easing the load on working parents. Biden centered his news conference on preschool provisions; however, Deese indicated that daycare funding was still on the table.
Deese also anticipated that prescription medications and health-care expenses would be two different areas “where we can reach an agreement.”
The framework’s prescription medicine provisions would enable Medicare to negotiate lower pricing for high-cost prescription pharmaceuticals. Something for which proponents have long fought.
Additionally, the prescription medication programs would include price limits and sanctions if drug firms increased their prices faster than inflation.
Biden and his colleagues have concentrated their efforts on lowering Obamacare premiums and health-care expenses.
Another possibility is to grant tax credits to lower-income Americans to encourage more people to enroll in coverage.
“All of them are issues on which Democrats and the American public agree,” Deese said, adding that “they are common sense.”
Both Biden and Deese made no mention of the enhanced Child Tax Credit. It was a landmark Biden achievement, but it expired at the start of 2022 and does not look likely to be renewed anytime soon in light of Manchin’s opposition.
Biden reacted to a question regarding the fate of the enhanced Child Tax Credit at Wednesday’s news conference by saying it was one of the “significant components that I feel strongly about but am not sure I can include in the package.”
Despite Biden and the White House’s strong support, Deese acknowledged Thursday, stating that it would be “difficult” to reinstate that clause.
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