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By CASEY HARPER
THE CENTER SQUARE SENIOR REPORTER
(The Center Square) — President Joe Biden departed for Italy Thursday, leaving lawmakers behind to debate the framework of his newly released reconciliation plan, purported to be down to $1.75 trillion from $3.5 trillion.
The White House unveiled the updated reconciliation plan just before the president’s exit. The framework preserves some elements of the original plan, including publicly funded preschool, an extended child tax credit, home care spending and climate change spending.
The plan also promises to cut the deficit without taxing anyone making less than $400,000, though both those claims have been refuted by critics. In addition, previous top line numbers from the administration, such as Thursday’s $1.75 trillion, have been disputed.
“After hearing input from all sides and negotiating in good faith with Senators Manchin and Sinema, Congressional Leadership, and a broad swath of Members of Congress, President Biden is announcing a framework for the Build Back Better Act,” the White House said in the announcement. “President Biden is confident this is a framework that can pass both houses of Congress, and he looks forward to signing it into law. He calls on Congress to take up this historic bill — in addition to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — as quickly as possible.”
Critics of the plan pointed to “gimmicks” in the accounting that make the plan seem cheaper than it actually appears.
“Unfortunately, the framework relies heavily on the massive gimmick of arbitrary sunsets to make the numbers work,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “The increase in the Child Tax Credit amount and the Earned Income Tax Credit expansion last for only one year. Expansions of the Affordable Care Act will continue for only four years.
“And proposals to provide child care and pre-K will last for only six years. Extending these policies could end up costing up to $2 trillion over the decade, or perhaps even more. To meet the president’s commitment that Build Back Better be fully offset, any extensions would need to be fully paid for as well. Unfortunately, such extensions have often been deficit-financed in the past.”
Cutting the previous plan in half is the administration’s attempt to get hesitant Democrats onboard, in particular Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. Both expressed major concern with the $3.5 trillion figure and the tax increases needed to pay for it.
Sen. Manchin would not offer his support or opposition immediately after the plan’s release Thursday. Sen. Sinema did not fully back the plan but called it “significant progress.”
“After months of productive, good-faith negotiations with (the president) and the White House, we have made significant progress on the proposed budget reconciliation package,” Sen. Sinema said in a statement after the plan’s release. “I look forward to getting this done, expanding economic opportunities and helping everyday families get ahead.”
The cuts, though, may have alienated some of the more progressive Democrats in the House, who have pushed for more aggressive spending. Progressive House Democrats have withheld their votes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure passage until the “Build Back Better” reconciliation details are finalized.
“We have been clear since April: We will pass the bipartisan infrastructure once we vote a Build Back Better Act to help our communities,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said after the plan’s release. “That has not changed. No vote on infrastructure until we vote on reconciliation.”
The changes are unlikely to get support from Republicans, who have opposed the bill from the start. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called the updated framework “just as socialist as a $3.5 trillion one.”
Casey Harper works at The Center Square’s Washington, D.C. bureau.