ChrisWeigant.com

Bernie's Bill On Deck

[ Posted Monday, August 9th, 2021 – 16:42 UTC ]

In the midst of all the excruciating (and completely unnecessary) delaying tactics Senate Republicans are now deploying over the bipartisan infrastructure deal, Senator Bernie Sanders today apparently decided enough was enough and released his draft of a $3.5 trillion "human infrastructure" bill. It is just as breathtaking as promised, although the nature of this first bill means it is still vague on a lot of the details. This is by design, since the bill will pass under budget reconciliation rules which necessitate a first "topline" bill that just has the totals for various different areas of the budget, while later on (Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has set a soft deadline of September 15, although this may prove to be optimistic) the details will all be filled in by the various committees on a second (and final) budget reconciliation bill.

The bill is already a compromise between the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and the fiscal conservatives. Bernie originally tossed out $6 trillion as a target figure, while Senator Joe Manchin spoke of a $1-to-2 trillion range. Before it even appeared, Senator Kyrsten Sinema went on the record saying she couldn't even support the $3.5 trillion Bernie asked for, so there may be some intense discussions within the caucus even on this first iteration of the bill.

But I have to say, Bernie's bill is the real deal. This one bill will cement Joe Biden's presidential legacy, unlike the infrastructure deal (mostly because Republicans severely limited what could be included in it). Bernie's bill will fulfill many campaign promises made by Biden -- many of which he was forced into adopting by Sanders himself, while they were still in the primary stage of the presidential nomination race. These are solid progressive ideas that would have been considered far too ambitious even just a few short years ago. So for all the sturm und drang which has surrounded the bipartisan infrastructure deal, Bernie's bill is going to be the one people will remember decades from now.

It truly is that historic. In fact, there are so many historic ideas in this bill, it is tough to single any one of them out as the most historic. My personal choice would be the expansion of Medicare coverage to include vision, dental, and hearing, but others might choose another item from the list. And there are a lot to choose from:

Continuation of the expanded Child Tax Credit that is currently sending checks to nine out of ten families with children each and every month (without Bernie's bill, this would expire at the end of this year). Help for those caring for elders. Free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. Tuition-free community college for all. Paid leave for all workers. Possibly lowering the eligibility age for Medicare. Major proposals to promote clean energy and fight climate change. Add to all of that many of the infrastructure proposals that wound up being cut from the bipartisan bill. And a whole lot more.

One particularly ambitious proposal is to deal with immigration reform in the budget bill. This is a good example of the vagueness of the language in the first bill, though, since the Senate Judiciary Committee is merely told to provide: "lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants." Which, you'll have to agree, is intentionally vague. We'll have to wait and see (as with many other of these items) precisely what it is going to mean, but some Democrats are already confidently predicting it could legalize 10 million undocumented people in the United States -- which is pretty comprehensive indeed (although not universal).

I said the immigration reform proposal is ambitious, not for what it aims to do but for the fact that this could be one of the first items scratched off the list by the Senate parliamentarian. This is a budget bill, and the only things allowable under the reconciliation rules are things which impact the federal budget in a major way. A good argument can (and will) be made that legalizing millions will lead to an increase in federal taxes paid (as people start being paid over the table instead of under it), but it's still a coin toss whether it'll be allowed in or not.

Also unspecified is exactly how it will all be paid for. But the crucial point that is in there already is that it will be fully paid for. All of it. This is going to be a critical selling point for the whole package, both with American voters and with recalcitrant Democrats getting weak-kneed over the size of the bill.

We already know the outlines of how the money will be raised: by taxing or raising taxes on corporations and people making over $400,000 per year, so they finally pay their fair share. All the details, however, remain to be worked out. And this will likely be one of the most contentious issues in the whole bill, so this may be one of the major sticking points in September. Other money will come from increasing the I.R.S. budget so they can effectively go after high-income tax cheats -- an idea the Republicans (rather astonishingly) came out against.

You'll note that everything about this bill (with the only possible exception being the immigration part, depending on what it ultimately contains) is already overwhelmingly popular. Who is really against tuition-free community college for all? What senior is going to get angry when Medicare starts covering his or her glasses, dental visits, and hearing aids? Is there any parent out there who will be strongly arguing against two years of free preschool for their kids?

This is the Democrats' strongest point: what the bill actually contains. All the good things it will do for the public. Because each of these ideas already polls with a strong majority of the American public behind it.

Because this is the strongest argument for the Democrats, look for Republicans to refuse to even engage on the pros and cons of the bill itself. Instead, they will try to get both the media and the public to focus on the size of the bill and how some people's taxes will be going up. That and screaming "Socialism!" as loudly as they can, as often as they can. Democrats can pretty easily counter with: "Republicans use the word 'socialism' to describe anything the government does for average people -- anything the government does for people who aren't already rich. To them, that's socialism." The other good counterargument for Democrats to make will be to repeat ad infinitum how the bill "will not raise taxes on you if you make less than $400,000 a year." This is going to have to be hammered home as forcefully as possible, to counter all the inevitable GOP fearmongering.

Bernie's bill -- even the first iteration of it with just the topline figures -- is nowhere near a done deal. Schumer has promised that he will not let the Senate go on vacation until they've voted on it, which is the ultimate in congressional leverage (a concept that anybody who has ever been in Washington D.C. in August will immediately understand). There will be snags and delays, of course. Democrats may even have a problem getting Sinema and Manchin on board.

But these can all (hopefully) be overcome. Bernie's bill is a truly historic undertaking and one that -- if successful -- will indeed be remembered for decades to come (in the same way we all know what the New Deal was, more than eighty years later). It is indeed ironic that Bernie Sanders may prove to be the one person in Congress who cements Joe Biden's legacy as president, when you remember how hard the two fought on the campaign trail over these exact issues. So while we've all got to continue waiting for the bipartisan bill to be finished and finally done with, what's on deck is going to be a whole lot more interesting and a whole lot more transformative.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

25 Comments on “Bernie's Bill On Deck”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Bernie's bill will fulfill many campaign promises made by Biden -- many of which he was forced into adopting by Sanders himself, while they were still in the primary stage of the presidential nomination race.

    While that may be true, Chris, Biden is far more progressive, in the best sense of the label, than you give him credit for.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    My personal choice would be the expansion of Medicare coverage to include vision, dental, and hearing ...

    Yeah, I'd like to see that be part of Canada's universal healthcare system, too.

    Speaking of which, and speaking of infrastructure ... just had a thought ... it happens!

    And, this applies to Canada as well ... most countries, including the US and Canada desperately need a MASSIVE investment in public health and public health architecture as the COVID-19 pandemic will not be the last public health crisis we will most certainly have to deal with in our lifetimes. Is this part of Bernie's 'human infrastructure' bill? Because, it should be!

  3. [3] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Chris (and Bernie) says all those goodies will be paid for by "raising taxes on corporations and the rich" and then says "Wont raise taxes on people earning less then $400k/yr".

    The reality of the situation is that a massive portion of those goodies will in reality be paid for by currency inflation (raising the ratio of money in circulation to the amount of goods and services available in the marketplace), which inevitably creates price inflation, and another considerable portion of the goodies will be paid for by corporations (producers) passing on their taxes to consumers included in the price of everything we buy, making U.S. corporations less able to compete with foreign corporations, sending more jobs overseas.

    The first law of economics is "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch", but I never met a Democratic smart enough to comprehend that fact (and actually pathetically few Republicans, for that matter).

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    one never knows. maybe a few republicans with foresight, realizing this will happen with or without them, will decide to hop on board rather than be left behind. as for fears about inflating the currency, it's been so hopelessly inflated already over the last twenty years that this little bill will barely make a dent.

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [3]

    Got news for you: Governments going back centuries have relied on inflation. It's a natural fact of life and in moderation it has and will continue to work.

    Back when Trump gifted the rich with his 2017 tax cut (which added $1.7T to the national debt) were you bitching to high heaven about inflationary pressures? Or are you a typical Republican who doesn't squawk when it's more money for the rich, and the rest of us be damned?

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Repugs blow up the national debt with tax cuts for the rich. They don't "trickle down" nor do they "pay for themselves."

    When Dems come in (and have to do "cleanup on aisle Dubya" or "cleanup on aisle Cheetogod") ALL OF THE SUDDEN
    Repugs "remember" fiscal responsibility.

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @caddy,

    show me a politician who is a hypocrite, and i'll show you nearly every politician ever. left, right, center, social, economic, whatever. anyone who thinks massive hypocrisy is only for the other side, has not been paying attention.

    JL

  8. [8] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Mtn caddy (6)-
    The problem is that the Deathocrats clean up the mess but put things back the way they were that caused the mess to happen so it will just happen again.

    Just like the Republikillers the Deathocrats suddenly remember their campaign promises when it is time to campaign for re-election that they seem to forget when they could do it and/or spend more time making excuses why they can't do it.

    Like what Nypoet said in comment 7.

    The problem isn't that "both sides" are corrupt- it's that people accept the false narrative that there is only a choice between bad and worse.

  9. [9] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Liz (1)-
    How do you define progressive?

    I see nothing in Biden that even resembles Biden being progressive.

    You are as delusional as a Trump supporter.

    Apparently love is not just blind- it is stupid and devoid of reality.

  10. [10] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    CW-
    Of course people are in favor of treating some of the symptoms of our problems when the choice is treat some symptoms or do nothing.

    But nearly 90% of Democrats want the medicare for all that was what Bernie was for during the nomination campaign, not just expanded coverage for those that already have medicare.

    At least you admit the Deathocrats best argument for this half-measure addressing of symptoms is that the Republikillers will argue against it with their own moosepoop propaganda that is the same exact strategy that commenters here use against One Demand of trying to change the focus of what the argument for One Demand is to some thing that they can argue against.

    This article itself does the same thing by trying to frame the argument that we should settle for a little vaseline instead of demanding that they stop reaming us in the ass.

  11. [11] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris
    9|10

    I see nothing in Biden that even resembles Biden being progressive.

    The ability to "see nothing" is a common affliction for those whose heads are firmly wedged up into their own asses.

    You are as delusional as a Trump supporter.

    Said the mooch who trolls this forum with his head firmly wedged up into his own ass.

    Apparently love is not just blind- it is stupid and devoid of reality.

    That certainly explains your own personal bullshit that you prattle on and on about while trolling this forum.

    But nearly 90% of Democrats want the medicare for all that was what Bernie was for during the nomination campaign, not just expanded coverage for those that already have medicare.

    You might have noticed Bernie is not the president... if your head wasn't wedged so firmly up your own ass.

    At least you admit the Deathocrats best argument for this half-measure addressing of symptoms is that the Republikillers will argue against it with their own moosepoop propaganda that is the same exact strategy that commenters here use against One Demand of trying to change the focus of what the argument for One Demand is to some thing that they can argue against.

    "Same exact strategy"? Nope -- not even close -- since this article isn't remotely about your own personal bullshit/crusade, and it has that in common with every other article CW has written: Not about you.

    This article itself does the same thing by trying to frame the argument that we should settle for a little vaseline instead of demanding that they stop reaming us in the ass.

    Said the guy reaming himself, head wedged firmly up his own ass, obsessed with his own bullshit to the extent that it's all he sees in every article when exactly zero of those blog posts pertain to him or his endless love... "stupid and devoid of reality."

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Don,

    Progressive is always governing with the American people in mind and doing what is in their best interests, domestically and internationally.

    Do I consider Biden political perfection? No. But, relatively speaking, he's pretty darn close in my book!

  13. [13] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Caddy [5]

    If you want to discuss economics laws/principles and the like with me, please never write the word 'inflation' by itself. In order to have clarity of meaning, the word 'inflation' must always be preceded either by the word 'currency', or the word 'price'. (Not intending to imply that we have to have that discussion, just that without the qualifiers, I'm unable to make a meaningful response.)

    No, I never "bitched about inflationary pressures" when Trump passed his tax cuts for the rich. I'm not even bitching about inflation now, merely commenting on how the monetary system works. I'm neither pro nor con about inflation, just an observer. And also on that subject, there is no direct connection between national debt and either kind of inflation. There are indirect connections, depending on how the gov't chooses to finance the deficits that create the debt, but that lecture is more than I care to tackle right now.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    CRS,

    You must have some fine economics laws/principles tunes up your sleeve - why not share them with us on Sunday nights!?

    Just remember that you can only PLAY them, not discuss them. Heh.

  15. [15] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Liz (12)-
    Governing with the best interests of the American people.

    That would be things like a BMI, medicare for all, ending the Trump cuts instead of just walking them back a little, not lying us into endless wars, dealing with income inequality, banning fracking, etc.

    Biden is not close on any of that. Biden is closer to Republikillers than to anything progressive.

    Perfection is not the issue- basic adequacy is the issue and Biden does not measure up.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Don,

    I think a BMI is an idea whose time has come. Lots of wrinkles to iron out in how it would work, pardon the pun. Heh.

    Biden has never lied Americans into endless wars. Quite the opposite.

    Biden is closer than you are willing to admit here. You have your own reasons for that, I guess.

    The infrastructure bills, should they become law, will be a HUGE move in the department of getting things done for the American people. I can't understand why you wouldn't be for all that is in those bills.

    It's really hard to take seriously your stance that Biden's actions thus far as president don't even measure up to basic adequacy so I'm not even going to try. :)

  17. [17] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [7]

    I would agree except I cannot think of Democratic hypocrisy anywhere near the scale that Repugs engage in.

    But, I don't want to be blinded to problems in my political camp, so please provide me a few examples of serious Democratic hypocrisy, please.

  18. [18] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Republicans use the word 'socialism' to describe anything the government does for average people -- anything the government does for people who aren't already rich. To them, that's socialism."

    CW, I think this is a great stand-alone Talking Point, short and to the point.

  19. [19] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [13]

    Good deal, CRS! You make good points and distinctions.

    Am I correct in assuming that you, er, "lean right?" If do, its good to interact with folks that don't just parrot conservative TV.

  20. [20] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [11]

    Ah, Kick! Where you been, Gurl? I always enjoy it when you kick Delusional Don around the block a couple of times.

    Hosanna, Queen of Snark! Hosanna in the highest!

  21. [21] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    For the record, my favorite item in Bernie's bill is the extension of the Child Tax Credit. I think it's effects on childhood poverty may have more impact on 'Murican quality of life than any of the other great ideas therein.

  22. [22] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Elizabeth, these quotes summarize why I've been so "meh" about Joe Biden all along:

    You can try to tout Obama’s support for stuff like the Paris accords and electric vehicles, but his own boasts illustrate a record of climate denialism, as did Obama’s 2018 declaration one month after an IPCC sounded an alarm. Amid the worsening emergency, he told a Texas audience that “suddenly America is like, the biggest oil producer. That was me, people … just say, ‘Thank you,’ please."

    ****

    From the all-too-small stimulus, to the watered-down Wall Street reform bill, to the Heritage Foundation–originated healthcare legislation to the push for social security cuts to the approval of toxic chemicals to the Oklahoma speech’s embrace of drill-baby-drill, most major Obama initiatives represented an attempt to appease the right and punch a left.

    The Obama administration’s top-line goal was to prove to Washington pundits and corporate donors that the Democratic party will always prioritize compromise – even when it means compromising the lifespans of millions of people.

    Joe was VP in the vastly disappointing Obama administration (remember Hope and Change -- what a joke!) and cannot be disassociated from it's lackluster results.

    NOW,
    Joe has always positioned himself in the center of the Party. The Party has moved left and Joe has gone along, and that gives me hope.

    BUT,
    Seeing is believing. If Joe addresses Climate Change, gets Bernie's bill, the For the People and John Lewis Acts passed and significantly raises taxes on our Ownership Class hen I'll believe. No excuses -- action talks and bullshit walks!

  23. [23] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    [22]

    These quotes came from a Guardian article titled Remember Obama’s drill, baby, drill days? Democrats aren’t innocent on climate.

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:

    MtnCaddy
    22

    Joe was VP in the vastly disappointing Obama administration (remember Hope and Change -- what a joke!) and cannot be disassociated from it's lackluster results.

    I take no pleasure in defending politicians, but these type of "hindsight is 20/20" articles that focus on political "failures" with precious little of factoring in history are generally one-sided self-serving pieces of puff and fluff. Obama-Biden or [insert administration's name here] didn't do enough regarding [insert plethora of pet project/issues here] and is therefore an abject failure... as if they could have easily snapped their fingers and made it happen but chose to not do that.

    Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but whenever one reads the ramblings of activists whining about their [insert "never-enough attention" toward "my precious"], people should try factoring in history... yes, history.

    Here's how it works: When Obama-Biden took office, millions of people were losing their jobs, America was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, industries were laying off workers in giant chunks and moving overseas and/or closing their doors altogether, auto industry in free fall, economy spiraling straight toward hell... you get the idea. Now ask yourself "Why, oh why"... didn't Obama-Biden do more about climate change [or insert "the precious" issue here]?

    Obama had secured the Kennedy's endorsement by promising Ted that he would make the passage of health care his highest priority... a promise the other candidate refused to make, and the rest is history. Ted Kennedy then suffered a seizure on Obama's inauguration day, etc., and Obama eventually kept his word. However, the vast majority of focus of the early Obama-Biden administration was quite obviously not their choice: the free-falling economy, getting millions and millions of people back to work, and the veritable international shitshow left by the Bush administration.

    Their priorities were saving American's livelihoods, restoring faith in the lousy free-falling economy, stopping the spiraling unemployment, health care, and the shit-ton of climate deniers being swept into office in 2010 didn't help that cause. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that Republicans are science deniers on multiple levels.

    Nevertheless and still:

    * Obama-Biden included $90 billion for clean energy in the stimulus package.
    * Obama-Biden reached agreement with auto companies on fuel economy.
    * Obama-Biden opposed the Keystone XL pipeline (yes, after "riding the fence" early on)
    * Climate deal with China
    * Paris accord
    * Lots of executive orders
    * 23 national monuments (presidential reccord)

    Help from Congress? Nonexistent.

    So to recap:

    * Context... it matters
    * History

  25. [25] 
    Kick wrote:

    MtnCaddy
    22

    Forgot to give you the context that global warming/climate change is high on my list too. I wish Obama-Biden -- and every other administration -- would have/could have done more.

    In future years when we're "grading" Biden-Harris, let's factor in the Trump COVID shitshow and con, coup, etc. Also, we should definitely factor in that Biden-Harris had the benefit of "20/20 hindsight" and the obvious "been there, done that, not falling for this bullshit again" from the right wingnuts who're actively killing Americans with their hysterical science denying propagandizing bullshit. The right-wing stupid goes bone-deep... and it burns.

Comments for this article are closed.