Manchin pushes the House to pass infrastructure bill as he waffles on Build Back Better; will progressives give up their leverage? Promises, promises, promises at COP26; Thunberg not impressed.
Is Manchin trying to bamboozle House Dems on Build Back Better?
After weeks of pushing to slim down the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Plan to $1.75 trillion, trimming out popular provisions like free community college, Medicare coverage for dental and vision, and paid family leave among others, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is now hedging on whether he will back the plan at all. At the same time, he is pushing for Democrats in the House to bring the smaller bipartisan $1 trillion hard infrastructure bill to a vote.
Progressive Democrats in the House have already twice thwarted attempts by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the bipartisan plan for a vote. The reason for holding up the bipartisan bill, as they stated, was that the bipartisan bill was their only leverage to ensure the passage of the social spending in the Build Back Better plan.
“Quit playing games”
In a press conference yesterday, Manchin demanded that House progressives stop holding the bipartisan bill “hostage” and “quit playing games“. In truth, it is Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) that have played cat-and-mouse with the social spending package. It was Manchin and Sinema who initially lobbied to split Biden’s unified plan for hard infrastructure and social spending into two bills. Once they got the hard infrastructure bill on paper, Manchin and Sinema then withdrew support for the social spending package. They only agreed to negotiate on the social spending bill when progressives in the House refused to vote for the bipartisan bill.
But now, it looks as if the progressive caucus is ready to give up that leverage without assurances of support for Build Back Better from Manchin and Sinema. House progressive caucus leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal, (D-WA) says, “I don’t know what Sen. Manchin is thinking, but we are going to pass both bills through the House and we are going to deliver transformative change to the people”. Jayapal had previously said, “The president says he can get 51 votes for the [Build Back Better] bill. We are going to trust him. We’re tired of continuing to wait for one or two people”. But Biden isn’t the one the progressives need to be worried about.
What’s at stake in the $1.75 trillion bill?
1. Childcare and eldercare support for families
2. Extended child tax credits for one year
3. Hearing coverage for Medicare recipients
4. Affordable housing funding
5. Expanded Pell grants for college tuition
6. $555 billion to incentivize greener energy options
7. (Possibly) Allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower prescription drug prices
8. (Possibly) Immigration reform
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Promises, promises, promises at COP26
The international COP26 climate conference in Glasgow is starting to wrap up. Today and yesterday, leaders of industrialized nations have shared the stage and climate goals with representatives from less developed nations. Dozens of nations signed onto various targets including net-zero emissions goals, preventing methane leaks from oil wells, ending deforestation, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels overall.
But the overall impact of the conference was underwhelming for some. Climate activist Greta Thunberg summed it up saying, “Nothing has changed from previous years really. The leaders will say ‘we’ll do this and we’ll do this, and we will put our forces together and achieve this’, and then they will do nothing. Maybe some symbolic things and creative accounting and things that don’t really have a big impact. We can have as many COPs as we want, but nothing real will come out of it”.
Too little too late?
Certain moments seemed to make Thunberg’s point for her. Days before the summit, leaked documents revealed that fossil fuel economies Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia had been lobbying to play down the need for climate change and the need to pay poorer nations to adopt green technologies more quickly. In a too-little-too-late bid for damage control, Australian PM Scott Morrison pledged that Australia would cut its carbon emissions by 35% by 2030. However the goal is just that; there’s no concrete plan or benchmarks.
India’s pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2070, 20 years later than even the tardiest goals, also failed to impress. India is both one of the world’s most populous nations and, because of its dependence on coal, one of its greatest polluters.
Amazon founder and mega billionaire Jeff Bezos pledged $2 billion to restore landscapes and transform food systems. This is part of a larger $10 billion pledge from his foundation to fight climate change. In his address to the summit, Bezos said that his experience of seeing earth from space back in July had brought home to him how fragile our planet’s ecosystem is. “I was told that seeing the Earth from space changes the lens from which you view the world but I was not prepared for just how much that would be true,” he said.
But some people don’t need to go to space to understand the urgency of getting our act together climate wise. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley warned on the first day that for island nations like hers, another 2 degrees of global warning would be a “death sentence”.
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