House Ways and Means Committee starts writing Democratic $3.5 trillion spending plan

House Ways and Means Committee starts writing Democratic $3.5 trillion spending plan
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The House Ways and Means Committee began its markup of President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget plan on Thursday, marking the first step in a thorny legislative process for Democrats on both sides of the Capitol.

The proposal includes items such as universal paid family leave and free community college. Democrats at the hearing described the spending plan as an investment in a social safety net, while Republicans painted it as wasteful spending and tax increases.

Among congressional Democrats, there is debate over the size of the spending package. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer proceeded with the $3.5 trillion spending plan, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia wrote an op-ed last week headlined “Why I won’t support spending another $3.5 trillion,” outlining his objections to the price tag of the plan, as well as aspects including policies targeting fossil fuel use.

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Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has also objected to the size of the bill. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, recently said that the plan “is already the result of a major, major compromise.”

While the Build Back Better Act contains a host of other social welfare programs such as universal preschool and a Medicare expansion, House Democrats made the spending plan’s universal paid leave provision a cornerstone of their opening argument at the start of the markup hearing.

Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said a lack of universal paid leave “inflicted an extra layer of stress and heartache on American families” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But this is not a new problem,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “Long before the pandemic struck, American workers have lived in fear that an injury, illness, sick family member, or even the arrival of a new baby might push them into financial crisis. Without paid leave, any one of these or myriad other scenarios could result in extended time off the job without money coming in the door.”

Neal said the committee would consider “investments to fund a comprehensive program that will provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for all American workers” for parental, medical, or caregiving leave.

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the ranking Republican on the committee, said in an opening statement that Biden, Pelosi, and House Democrats are “ramming through trillions of wasteful spending and crippling tax hikes that will drive prices up even higher, kill millions of American jobs, and usher in a new era of government dependency with the greatest expansion of the welfare state in our lifetimes.”

Brady said the spending plan did not include “one dime to defeat COVID — not one,” while including “green welfare subsidies for the wealthy, a tax windfall for millionaires and billionaires, permanent new entitlement programs that punish the dignity of work, and a crushing new mandate on local businesses that puts the IRS in charge of your sick leave.”

Neal described the benefits of paid leave as “substantial” and as a “smart investment” that would increase productivity and employee morale for businesses.

"It grows and strengthens the labor force, provides income security to families who might otherwise need public assistance to make ends meet, and helps women stay in the workforce,” Neal said.

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Brady argued that “crippling tax hikes” would endanger up to 4 million jobs while businesses work to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

“Right now, we need to help businesses get back on their feet so they can get Americans back to work to rebuild a healthy economy,” Brady said.

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Tags: News, Nancy Pelosi, paid family leave, Joe Manchin, government spending

Original Author: Kate Scanlon

Original Location: House Ways and Means Committee starts writing Democratic $3.5 trillion spending plan

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