Crunch Time for Biden's Agenda

Crunch Time for Biden's Agenda

Sen. Joe Manchin
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Monday, June 6, 2022

Happy Monday! Congress is back in action this week, kicking off a three-week dash for Democratic lawmakers trying to advance some of their agenda before their July 4 recess. While public hearings on the January 6 insurrection will start later this week and will likely dominate the news, lawmakers are also reportedly making some progress toward a bipartisan gun-control bill — and Democrats may be getting closer to a scaled-back budget reconciliation package. Congress also still needs to figure out a path forward on a stalled pandemic funding package. All of that means it’s a crucial stretch for President Joe Biden and Democrats as they look to score some legislative wins before November’s midterm elections.

Crunch Time for Biden and Democrats

Talks are reportedly heating up between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) over a package of tax changes, health care reforms, and climate and energy programs.

We’re hearing there’s no deal, at least not yet. But Schumer and Manchin are closer than they’ve ever been, according to multiple sources familiar with the negotiations,” Punchbowl News reported this morning, adding that climate policies remain a point of contention and that Democrats are also looking to use the reconciliation bill address a potential spike in Affordable Care Act premiums.

Roll Call’s Paul M. Krawzak reports that the package under discussion would raise about $1 trillion in new tax revenue, down from $1.5 trillion in earlier versions of the budget reconciliation bill. “[T]he lower revenue target could give Democrats fiscal space to drop big-ticket provisions like a proposed ‘surtax’ on multimillionaires and applying an existing investment income tax to profits earned by owners of ‘pass through’ firms that don’t face corporate taxes,” Krawzak notes. “Those proposals, estimated to generate about $480 billion, have raised concerns in the small-business community.”

The package would also include about $300 billion in savings from allowing Medicare to negotiate some drug prices.

The roughly $1.3 trillion to $1.4 trillion in new revenue and cost savings would imply some $700 billion may be available for new spending and tax breaks, given that Manchin has called for half of new revenues and savings to be used for deficit reduction.

Democrats are also looking to use the reconciliation bill address a potential spike in Affordable Care Act premiums. Manchin’s insistence on avoiding having new programs sunset early to keep their official cost down reportedly could result in a permanent expansion of the expanded ACA subsidies at a cost of around $220 billion over 10 years.

Reasons to remain skeptical: Democrats still face sizable obstacles to getting a budget reconciliation deal done. Krawzak reports that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-AZ) support is still in question: “[S]ources speaking on condition of anonymity said the passage of time may not have increased Sinema’s fondness for the bill and she may have lingering concerns with some of the specific language.”

How we got here: In case you missed it, The Washington Post on Sunday published a lengthy, behind-the-scenes look at how negotiations between the White House and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on the roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better plan collapsed back in December.

Some substantive policy issues reportedly had yet to be resolved at the time Manchin blew up the Build Back Better talks, including differences over Democrats’ expanded Child Tax Credit, which expired at the end of last year. But the Post’s Jeff Stein and Tyler Pager report that, after months of talks and a seemingly productive meeting on December 14, Manchin became infuriated by a White House statement that mentioned him and only him as a negotiating partner, even after his office had asked that his name be removed or that Sinema’s name be added.

The statement did not slam Manchin or explicitly blame him for delaying the bill. It said, in part: “In these discussions, Senator Manchin has reiterated his support for Build Back Better funding at the level of the framework plan I announced in September.” But the senator reportedly felt the White House was trying to back him into a corner and had endangered him and his family, already the targets of liberal protests. He texted Steve Ricchetti, a top aide to Biden, saying “the statement you all put out tonight targeting me and my family was unconscionable and extremely dangerous. There will be no further negotiations.” Days later, Manchin told Fox News he couldn’t get to yes on the bill, effectively killing it.

“Biden aides are still in disbelief that Manchin abandoned months of painstaking negotiations, seemingly in an instant, over what they regarded as an innocent statement that they did not believe would offend the senator,” Stein and Pager report. “They are left wrestling with the question of how legislation of such historic dimensions appears to have been doomed by a simple miscommunication over a news release. Manchin’s allies do not understand why the White House would have done anything to needlessly provoke the key vote for their legislative aspirations and believe the administration had already ignored his demands for weeks.”

The bottom line: Any deal Democrats may reach is almost certainly going to be much narrower than the bill they were aiming for last year. “Democrats believed they were on the brink of ushering in changes on the order of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal,” Stein and Pager write. “They have only a few months to avoid facing voters without having enacted a single permanent new policy, outside of last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

US Has Wasted 82 Million Covid Vaccine Doses

Health care companies throughout the U.S. threw away 82.1 million Covid vaccine doses between December 2000 and mid-May 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed Monday. That represents about 11% of all doses distributed by the federal government.

Pharmacies owned by CVS and Walmart accounted for a substantial proportion of the waste, according to NBC News, which reviewed the CDC data. The two chains threw out more than 20 million doses, reflecting in part the sheer size of their operations.

Five other companies — Health Mart, DaVita, Rite Aid, Publix and Costco — wasted fewer doses, but at a higher rate, NBC said, destroying more than a quarter of the vaccine shots they received.

Vaccine loss has multiple causes, including expiration while still unopened, spoilage due to loss of temperature control and partially used bottles being thrown out at the end of the day due to a lack of demand — a major risk associated with the way the vaccine is shipped in multidose vials.

Health experts say the number of wasted doses is roughly in line with expectations for a large vaccination campaign. Still, such a large loss is hard to accept given the millions of people in the U.S. and globally who still need to be vaccinated or boosted. “It’s a tremendous loss to pandemic control — especially in the context of millions of people around the world who haven’t even been able to get a first dose,” Dr. Sheela Shenoi of the Yale School of Medicine told NBC.

Quote of the Day

“If oil prices go to $150, we are going into recession. There is no way out.”

—Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. Zandi told CNN that while he is becoming more optimistic that inflation can be lowered without causing a recession, oil prices remain a dangerous wild card.

Trust in Government Hovers Near All-Time Low: Poll

In 1964, 77% of Americans said they believe the federal government does the right thing for the most part, but that proved to be a high-water mark for trust in government and the number has fallen steadily since then.

The latest data from Pew Research show that just 20% of Americans now trust the federal government to “do what is right just about always/most of the time,” demonstrating a deep skepticism about government that has persisted for decades.

The numbers over time are driven in part by partisan factors, with Republicans and Democrats expressing more trust in government when their party controls the executive branch (see the chart below). But the long-term trend is downward, and even now, with President Biden in the White House, just 29% of Democrats say they trust the government most of the time — and just 9% of Republicans agree. Just 6% of Americans say the phrase “careful with taxpayer money” describes the federal government extremely or very well and only 21% say it describes the government somewhat well.

On some measures, there is more partisan agreement, but the results are no more encouraging. Overall, 65% of poll respondents said they think politicians are mostly out for themselves. For Republicans, that number is 66%, while for Democrats it’s 63%.

At the same time, though, Americans say they think government has an important role to play in society — and could be doing more. For example, a majority of respondents (69%) say the government is doing too little to help middle-income people, and about the same number (66%) say the same about help for low-income people. On the other hand, most (61%) think high-income people receive too much help.

Even larger majorities see a role for government in a variety of areas, including keeping the county safe from terrorism (90%), managing immigration (85%), ensuring safe food and medicine (82%), responding to natural disasters (80%) and strengthening the economy (78%).


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