Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday claimed a nearly $2 trillion social and environmental spending bill is “poised to pass soon” — despite centrist Democrats hitting the brakes after a new report showed inflation at a three-decade high.
Harris, speaking at an Armistice Day event in France, touted passage last week of a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill while saying she’s confident Congress will pass the more contentious and larger spending bill put forth by President Biden.
“Just before I traveled here, our Congress passed a landmark piece of legislation to make a historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure. Another bill that will support our nation’s working families and help us meet our climate commitment is poised to pass soon,” Harris said.
But that optimism isn’t widely shared in Washington, where Democrats can’t afford to lose a single vote in the evenly divided Senate and can afford to lose only a few Democrats in the House of Representatives.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) said Wednesday that he’s concerned about inflation after data showed the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index jumped 6.2 percent in October from a year earlier, reflecting the highest increase since 1990 in the cost of goods and services as well as energy and food.
“By all accounts, the threat posed by record inflation to the American people is not ‘transitory’ and is instead getting worse,” Manchin tweeted. “From the grocery store to the gas pump, Americans know the inflation tax is real and DC can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day.”
A House Democrat told The Post late Wednesday that the latest inflation numbers could kill the bill in the Senate.
“I believe it’s likely to impact Sen. Manchin’s position and may well inspire him to go from tapping the brakes to slamming on them,” the lawmaker said.
Even in the House, moderate Democrats have resisted the massive social and environmental bill — sparking a daylong drama on Friday over passage of the infrastructure bill, with left-wing Democrats saying they feared centrists would embrace the infrastructure plan, then let the subsequent bill flop.
Biden on Wednesday unexpectedly endorsed the stance of his critics and said that inflation was spurred, at least in part, by his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus legislation, which passed in March with $1,400 stimulus checks for most people, a $300 weekly unemployment subsidy and a temporary boost in the child tax credit.
“People have more money now because of the first major piece of legislation I passed,” Biden said while discussing the declining value of the US dollar, adding: “With more people with money buying product and less product to buy, what happens? … Prices go up.”
Biden argues that inflation will naturally subside when supply chain bottlenecks at major ports are alleviated and administration officials point out that other countries also are experiencing high inflation.
Biden says that the pending legislation will be fully paid for, but skeptics including Manchin say they’re concerned that “gimmicks” undercount the true cost of programs if they are made permanent while possibly over-counting new revenue from tougher IRS enforcement and new taxes on companies and wealthy people capable of sophisticated tax avoidance strategies.
The Congressional Budget Office said $256 billion in spending within the just-passed infrastructure bill isn’t paid for, potentially worsening inflation.
As proposed last month, Biden’s $1.75 trillion social spending framework included $555 billion for environmental programs, $400 billion to fund universal preschool and cap child care costs at 7 percent of income for most families and $200 billion to extend the enhanced child tax credit for families that earn up to $150,000 — from $2,000 to $3,000 per child, or $3,600 for those under six.
That edition of the plan also included $150 billion for home health care for the elderly and people with disabilities through Medicaid, $150 billion for housing including 1 million new “affordable” rental units, $130 billion in new Obamacare subsidies, $90 billion in racial and gender “equity” initiatives, $40 billion for higher education grants and $35 billion to expand Medicare to include the cost of hearing aids.
House Democrats hope to resurrect plans to federally subsidize paid parental and family leave, which Manchin opposes, and to repeal the $10,000 “SALT cap” on state and local taxes that can be deducted from federal taxes, which could dramatically increase the bill’s cost.