Mar 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House progressives want Biden to supersize spending

Illustration of a hundred dollar bill with a donkey as the face.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Progressive Democrats in the House are privately discussing how they can push President Biden for a second spending package substantially bigger than the $3 trillion over a decade floated in various news outlets this week.

Why it matters: These members are attuned to the climate group Sunrise Movement's argument that "the crises we face demand at least $1 trillion per year over the next decade," two sources familiar with the conversation told Axios.

  • Sunrise's extremely ambitious proposal — at least $10 trillion — could quickly emerge as a benchmark for House progressives to rally around.
  • "Progressives feel like this package will define Biden's presidency," one source said, "and that $3 trillion over 10 years feels low, and it may not meet the scope of what we need to do — in particular on climate."

The strategy was discussed during a phone call Tuesday among members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Several raised concerns about the size of Biden's next spending package, which the president plans to unveil Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

  • They regard the reported scope of the proposal — which some moderates such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) already consider at the far reaches of acceptability — as too small to meet the moment, the source said.
  • "He should be bold with his opening offer."

Between the lines: Biden's next spending bill will involve a longer, messier and more complicated fight between the ideological factions of the Democratic Party.

  • In the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that just passed, there was agreement among Democrats from the beginning it was going to be entirely deficit-financed.
  • But the next package will likely be more of a running battle. Biden has said he wants to hike corporate and high-income earners' taxes to pay for much of the new spending — which sets up a fight between progressives and moderates.
  • And the ambitions for the proposal keep expanding — everything from meat and potatoes infrastructure (roads, bridges, ports), to broadband and climate initiatives.
  • There are also proposals for substantial investment in social welfare, including expansion of the child tax credit, universal pre-kindergarten, free community college and other measures.

Bottom line: "The parameters of the battle will not be locked in at the beginning," said the source familiar with the House progressives' internal discussions.

  • Progressives will view Biden's announcement next week as an opening framing, "and then Congress is going to have a lot more agency in this fight because it's going to be longer. Congress won't have to act by a certain date."
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