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What is and isn't in Biden's infrastructure framework — and where it goes from here

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Biden is on his way to Europe for a series of meetings, but he's wheels up without support for his signature domestic programs still - this despite the fact that he released a nearly $2 trillion framework for the social spending package that Democrats have been wrangling over for months.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: If we make these investments, there will be no stopping the American people or America. We will own the future.

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

It includes significant investments in child care, health care and climate action. What it does not include - a number of progressive priorities, including an expansion of Medicare to cover dental and vision, paid family leave and a tax on billionaires.

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BIDEN: No one got everything they wanted, including me. But that's what compromise is. That's consensus. And that's what I ran on.

CHANG: Biden may have run on consensus and compromise, but it seems he still doesn't have either. Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal said that she would not feel comfortable passing Biden's proposal until she first saw the text for the reconciliation bill.

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PRAMILA JAYAPAL: We're going to trust our Senate colleagues - all of them, all 50 of them - on the Senate vote. But we do need the text and we do need the vote on both bills in the House at the same time.

MCCAMMON: And speaking of the Senate, Biden's plan still has to win the support of the two Senate moderates and frequent holdouts Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

CHANG: All right. Here with more of what is and is not in this framework and where it goes from here is NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: All right. So the White House put out this framework, but it seems like there's still an impasse in all these negotiations. Are they actually getting any closer to making any of this law?

SNELL: Well, things are really still up in the air. You know, as we just heard, progressives...

CHANG: (Laughter) Literally.

SNELL: Yeah, they say they're trying to trust the Senate, trying to trust Manchin and Sinema. But here's what another member of the progressive caucus, Ruben Gallego of Arizona, said today.

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RUBEN GALLEGO: You know, I think everyone is very clear that the biggest problem we have here is Manchin and Sinema.

SNELL: So that's not a lot of trust. And those two senators have been pretty quiet today. But there's this effort by leaders to try to keep the focus out of this internal fighting and on the details of this bill. And progressives say they're just trying to make sure the Senate doesn't strip out any of the things that they've been fighting for because, you know, we talk a lot about this being a bill that was basically cut in half from Biden's earlier ambitions, but it is still nearly $2 trillion, and that is a huge amount of money.

CHANG: Exactly. It's still gigantic.

SNELL: Right.

CHANG: So let's dig into that. Like, what would this bill actually do? Can you just start with - what does it do for kids?

SNELL: All right. So this bill includes universal pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-olds. They estimate that's more than 6 million kids. And the program would last for six years. The expanded monthly child tax credit payments that people are getting now would be extended for another year instead of expiring in December.

There's also a program that we don't hear about a lot but could be significant. They want to limit child care costs for a lot of families based on median income in their state. You know, it phases in to reach a larger pool of people. But say you live in Iowa, for example. By the end of this program, a family living there and making up to about $150,000 would see their child care costs capped at 7%, which is about $875 a month.

CHANG: OK, well, what about climate change? We've been hearing a lot about Biden's ambitions on that front.

SNELL: Yeah, and that is a half-a-trillion dollars of this package, which is a lot of...

CHANG: Wow.

SNELL: ...Money. Yeah.

CHANG: Yeah.

SNELL: It's got clean energy tax credits, and those make up the bulk of the climate section. Ten years of credits for commercial and residential clean energy and clean passenger and commercial vehicles. Plus, there's money to address resiliency against the effects of climate change in a new program that's meant to get about 300,000 people working on green initiatives. Though, I will say activists caution that this section is really only about incentives, not penalties that would make companies move to renewables.

CHANG: OK, kids, climate change - tell us what else is in this massive thing.

SNELL: They are calling this bill the biggest comprehensive investment in affordable housing in history. So we're hearing a lot of this repeated - the biggest investment in history, right? It includes money to boost housing supply and mitigate lead in existing homes and investments in public housing. So they say that this will go a long way to making sure that people have access to affordable housing. And...

CHANG: OK.

SNELL: ...It's paid for with a mix of tax programs, the biggest ones being a new 15% minimum tax on corporations and a surcharge on billionaires and multimillionaires.

CHANG: You know, I'm curious how the different flanks among...

SNELL: Yeah.

CHANG: ...The Democrats are responding to this.

SNELL: Well, most progressives are embracing it, and leaders are embracing it. And, you know, there are still those questions about Manchin and Sinema. But at the end of the day, there is kind of a lot here for Democrats to go out and sell to voters. One thing I've heard is they want Biden to be in charge of making a national pitch on all of this because Democrats worry that they haven't really been historically great at passing bills, like the Affordable Care Act, and then getting credit for that.

So a lot of these programs are temporary, but that might be good for them politically. You know, it's hard to get rid of a policy once it's passed. And it allows Democrats to go out and campaign by saying, I delivered a specific policy that you use, and my opponent, if you pick them, would take it away. You know, that dynamic helped them win the House in 2018 when they campaigned on saving Obamacare.

CHANG: That's right. That is NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thanks so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.