Editorial: $3.5 trillion bill long-overdue
That the U.S. Senate passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on Monday with overwhelming bipartisan support — 19 Republicans joined all Democrats to support the measure — was a shocking moment of legislative success that has been absent from the nation’s capital for many years.
But initially it wasn’t a sure-fire success. Progressives in the U.S. House, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, had warned they wouldn’t pass the measure until the Senate also passed a much larger $3.5 trillion budget resolution that addressed the world’s climate crisis and anti-poverty measures that would devote hundreds of billions of dollars to stabilize middle-class working families.
Just a week ago, the odds of that second measure passing seemed fraught with obstacles and political calculations. Its passage was dubious at best. But just a day after passing the infrastructure bill, the U.S. Senate passed the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill 50-49 with one Republican senator absent, preventing Vice-President Kamala Harris from casting the tie-breaking vote.
The two bills, which have a good chance of passing mostly intact by the House and signed by President Joe Biden, would represent a staggering accomplishment and could transform the country. Here are some of the highlights of the legislation:
• establishes universal Pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds and a new child care benefit for working families;
• makes community college tuition-free for two years;
• extends the largest ever tax cut for families with children;
• creates the first federal paid family and medical leave benefit.
• provides clean energy, manufacturing and transportation tax incentives and grants;
• imposes new polluter fees on methane and carbon imports;
• invests in climate smart agriculture and forest management practices for farmers and rural communities;
• provides new consumer rebates for home electrification and weatherization;
• creates coastal and ocean resiliency programs;
• makes drought, wildfire, and Interior Department investments.
Infrastructure and Jobs:
• historic level of investments in public housing, green and sustainable housing, housing production and affordability;
• establishes the first-ever Civilian Climate Corps;
• invests in workforce development and job training programs;
• provides green cards to millions of migrant workers and families;
• largest ever one-time investment in Native American infrastructure projects;
• rehabilitates aging Veterans Administration buildings and hospitals;
• invests in research and development and strengthens U.S. manufacturing supply chain.
• adds a new dental, vision and hearing benefit to the Medicare program;
• extends the recent expansion of the Affordable Care Action in the ARP;
• invests in home and community-based services to help seniors, persons with disabilities and home care workers;
• creates a new federal health program for Americans in the “Medicaid Gap”;
• reduces prescription drug costs for patients and saves taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.
There are still details to work out on this massive spending bill, but all Americans should understand the difference between this legislation and the $2-plus trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy that was rammed through Congress by Republicans, without Democratic support, in Trump’s first year.
Time has demonstrated that those tax cuts did not boost the economy to any significant degree, but rather added a huge liability to the national debt, despite Republican promises that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. Rather, the outcome has been an enormous wage gap between the richest Americans and those in the bottom 90 percentile.
While passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and this $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill will certainly add to the national debt in the short term, and possibly pose risks of inflation, the long-term outcome is clear: it’s a significant investment in the nation’s infrastructure and in the nation’s workforce and families. Those are long-term investments that will pay dividends for decades to come for the entire country — industry, business and individuals at every income level.
As Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders said to a Fox News broadcaster: “the time is long overdue for Congress to address the long-neglected needs of ordinary Americans and not just the 1% and wealthy campaign contributors.”
This legislation goes a long way in that direction.
— Angelo Lynn
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