Build Back Better Act faces more cuts as progressives double down

Washington DC – Progressives have warned they may not support the new framework for reconciliation, which has cut down on several key items in their legislative agenda.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is said to be the reason paid family leave was stricken from Biden's new framework for the Build Back Better Act.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is said to be the reason paid family leave was stricken from Biden's new framework for the Build Back Better Act.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

Rumors were circling this week that paid family leave might be cut from the reconciliation package – thanks to Senator Joe Manchin's opposition.

Just before jetting off to Europe for the COP26 climate summit, President Joe Biden released a new framework for his Build Back Better Act. The revised plan calls for a $1.75-trillion investment over ten years – half the original compromise amount of $3.5 trillion.

In the proposal, the president calls for universal preschool and investments in elderly care, as well as $555 billion in spending to address the climate crisis, Axios reported.

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But sure enough, paid family leave didn't make the cut.

Progressives have been quick to dig in their heels on paid leave, with some warning they might not vote for the package or the $1.2-trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework if the provision is not included.

"We don't even allow puppies to leave their parent until it's developmentally appropriate. Most childcare centers won't take children under six weeks. Yet, we offer no guarantee of paid leave to families," tweeted New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman. "This is barbaric and inhumane!"

"Paid leave is just the latest axe that might fall – not because of popular opposition – but because it goes against the interests of corporations and the Members of Congress who do their bidding," Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar said.

Paid leave not the only progressive priority to go

Several of Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders' priority legislative items were cut from Biden's revised framework for the Build Back Better Act.
Several of Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders' priority legislative items were cut from Biden's revised framework for the Build Back Better Act.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

Biden's revised framework also axed two of Senator Bernie Sanders' top priorities: authorizing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and expanding benefits to cover dental and vision.

Both proposals are wildly popular among everyday Americans, with the former projected to generate around $600 billion in revenues.

The exclusion of the provisions is once again drawing scrutiny of Manchin and Sinema's connections to the pharmaceutical industry and other corporate interests.

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Though facing the rising frustration of many Democratic voters, the two senators have seen their big-money donations jump in recent months as they continue to hold out against the reconciliation package.

Sinema herself received $27,800 from pharma companies from July through September – up from $5,000 in the previous three months, according to Politico.

"In our country today, we pay more per capita for prescription drugs than any other major country on Earth," Sanders tweeted. "Enough. It’s time to put an end to Big Pharma controlling Congress. It’s time for Congress to regulate Big Pharma.

"It is not the case anywhere else on the planet, but uniquely, here in America, the pharmaceutical industry can raise prices at any time they want, and to any price they want," the Senate Budget Committee chair said in a separate tweet. "UNACCEPTABLE!"

Some wanted to vote on the infrastructure bill this week, but with conflicts still raging within the Democratic Party, it's uncertain whether that will actually happen.

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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