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Dec. 4, 2021, 9:13 a.m. EST

Time is no ally as Democrats strain to finish Biden’s $2 trillion bill

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The GOP argues that the $2 trillion bill would push prices higher by incentivizing a shift to cleaner fuels, and flushing more cash into an already overheated economy.

Democrats say the package’s spending and tax credits for health services, child care and education will help families with tight budgets cope with inflation. But the GOP is using rising gasoline and home heating costs, which many voters encounter daily, to help make their argument.

Republicans think Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s testimony to Congress that inflation no longer seems due to “transitory” causes like the pandemic shows their argument will have political staying power.

“Time is definitely on the side that doesn’t want this to pass,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the Senate GOP leadership, said this week.

Manchin has cited inflation fears as a rationale for slowing work on the bill and paring it, and he will no doubt be watching the government’s next measurement of consumer prices, due Dec. 10. His continued insistence on changes despite months of negotiation is rankling colleagues.

“I mean, God bless Joe Manchin, but how many months is this going on?” said No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois. “I mean, I told him a month ago, ‘For God’s sake, Joe, declare victory and close the deal.'”

Further incentive for Democrats to finish the legislation this month is the Dec. 31 expiration of parts of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that Congress approved in March.

That includes a larger children’s tax credit and monthly payments of those benefits to millions of families, which would end unless lawmakers renew it. Congress could revive the credit retroactively next year, but many lawmakers want to avoid any interruption.

Democrats still must solve other disagreements, including over how to let people deduct more state and local taxes without making the provision a giveaway to the richest Americans. And there are other factors running out the clock.

Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough needs time to decide whether any of the bill’s sections must be dropped because they violate the chamber’s special rules for budget legislation. A Democratic plan to help millions of immigrants remain in the U.S. is in the balance, and the process is tedious, with lots of back and forth between Senate aides and MacDonough.

“We’ve been talking about this and working on this for months,” said Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. “And so let’s just get it done.”

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