Congress

Democrats Compromise On Spending Plans

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

It seemed likely that we would see some movement on Democratic spending plans after Congress returned to Washington this week and that does appear to be the case.

Now that congressional Democrats are actually talking specifics with each other instead of blowing smoke signals through the media, we're getting a better idea of what will be cut and what will survive in the large reconciliation spending bill.

Among other things, Bloomberg reports that a free community college program will be sacrificed to preserve other policies.

Medicare expansion, to include dental, vision and hearing, is in the measure, but the details are still being negotiated, [Representative Ro Khanna] said. Universal pre-kindergarten will also be in the bill, and will not be based on salary, he added.

At the same time, the Clean Electricity Performance Program will likely not make the cut, Khanna said.

Democrats are also considering extending the more expansive child tax credit for only one year instead of until 2025, according to someone familiar with the negotiations.

Community college can make a difference in people's lives, but as someone who attended a community college myself, I don't believe providing two years of it for free would have been worth the cost if sacrificing it means an expansion of Medicare will survive. A "free" program probably would have been means-tested and, in that case, Pell Grants are already available to low individuals who attend community colleges. Some of my former friends attended the same school that I did using Pell Grants.

On the other hand, it is absolutely ridiculous that Medicare does not cover vision, hearing, and dental care. I believe all health care plans should be required to cover each of those things, but it's especially perplexing that Medicare does not. Vision, hearing, and dental care are relatively inexpensive compared to the world of other things Medicare covers, but it's still an out of pocket cost for people who's only source of income may be Social Security.

[Representative Pramila Jayapal] emerged from a Tuesday evening meeting, saying that the bill’s final cost would be $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion, down from the $3.5 trillion the House had previously endorsed.

Senator Jon Tester of Montana, a moderate Democrat, likewise said that was the range now under consideration.

For anyone who considers all of these policies to be equally important, it's undoubtedly disappointing that some of them will be cut from the final bill, but to me this is an encouraging report.

The fact that sacrifices are being named means we have a better idea of what can or cannot get past the likes of Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Deals are being made and that means not everyone will be pleased, but it does bring something closer to passing.

A $1.9 trillion spending bill would still be enormous when combined with the $1 trillion hard infrastructure bill that's still waiting for final passage. That's nearly $3 trillion in spending with at least $2.4 trillion that is new. And it won't be everything that everyone wanted it to be, but it will be huge.