A group of activists in kayak appeared this week in front of the house-boat in which Senator Joe Manchin lives when he is in Washington to protest and get him to vote on the great social spending program that the Democratic Party is trying to carry out, a star plan of the Joe Biden Administration. A few days earlier, Senator Kyrsten Sinema was rebuked by a group of protesters during her flight to the capital. Neither Manchin nor Sinema are, however, the spearheads of the Republican opposition, but the two moderate Democratic legislators who have forced the president’s own reforms to reform, now facing pressure from some and disenchantment from others, while his popularity plummets.
The great Democratic program, which is called Build Back Better (Rebuild better) and would mean the largest expansion of social coverage in the United States since Lyndon B. Johnson, in the 1960s, includes tax subsidies per child or dependent family member, an extension of aid to the elderly and disadvantaged and, at least so far, a package of measures of depth in the fight against climate change and the promotion of renewable energies. This last environmental leg is the one that Biden is studying how to redesign after the frontal rejection of Manchin, whose state, the conservative West Virginia, has precisely in the coal mines a crucial source of employment. The proposed plan as a whole estimates a budget of 3.5 billion [unos tres billones de euros], but it is likely to be reduced to less than 2.5.
Because unlike Lyndon B. Johnson, Joe Biden has just the right seats in Congress. The president who signed the Medicare (Retiree Healthcare Act) in 1965 had a Democratic supermajority in Congress, with two-thirds of the Senate seats, and yet it took him work to convince his moderate sector. Half a century later, in 2011, when Barack Obama pushed for his health care reform, he also enjoyed a more comfortable position in both legislative houses (with 57 Democrats and two independents in the Senate).
Joe Manchin has warned against the risks of inflation in the United States, the increase in public debt and, something more abstract and profound, the fear of “transforming American society towards a mentality of acquired privileges”, as he declared earlier this month. in the Capitol. In a previous rostrum, in The Wall Street Journal, titled Why don’t I support spending another 3.5 billion, He glossed his argument and pointed out: “Establishing an artificial spending figure of 3.5 trillion and then changing the social policies that you think should be publicly financed in a partisan way is not doing good politics.”
Kyrsten Sinema, the first Democrat to win a Senate seat from the State of Arizona in 30 years, has defended since she came to the Senate after the 2020 elections her vocation to work “bipartisan” with Republicans, as the bill showed infrastructure -also submitted by the Biden Administration and pending ratification-. “The American people don’t want to see us sitting on our hands, waiting for us to get every single thing we want. That all-or-nothing approach usually leaves you with nothing, “he said this summer in an interview on public radio.
Both politicians have broken a record of donations in the third quarter of the year, thanks to important contributions from the energy, pharmaceutical and financial sectors, according to the data registered and published by the Financial Times. Manchin made $ 1.6 million, compared to $ 1.5 million in the second quarter and just $ 175,000 in the first. Sinema, for his part, took 1.1 million, close to the second and light years from the $ 175,000 in the first quarter. All this, despite the fact that they do not aspire to reelection of their seats until 2024.
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The party’s progressive flank, for its part, is running out of patience and is also putting pressure on the White House. “You cannot allow two senators to take down what 48 senators and 210 members of the House want,” complained leftist Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont. “Every poll I see reflects huge support for this bill.” In a similar vein, Pramila Jayapal, president of the caucus A Democrat in Congress, he noted: “4% Democrats are opposing the president’s agenda.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, the veteran Nancy Pelosi, has begun to put hot cloths and prepare legislators to vote on economic programs that do not comply with 100% of what was proposed. “I am very disappointed,” she admitted this week, “because we are not going with the original 3.5 trillion plan, but whatever we do, we will make transformative decisions.”
The size of what is public in the economy, the level of State intervention, is the underlying debate. Biden inaugurated his presidency with the message that a monumental crisis required a strong and comprehensive government. But there are more projects in limbo. The Biden Administration has succeeded in pushing through new voting rights legislation, at a time when conservative states are putting up barriers that, in practice, hamper access for the disadvantaged and minorities. The reason is that a simple majority in the upper house is not enough, but it takes 60 of the 100 votes the game – the Democrats have 50 seats, plus the casting vote of the vice president, Kamala Harris.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s popularity has dropped sharply. He entered the White House on January 20, with an approval rating of 57%, according to Gallup, a benchmark polling firm in the United States, but in August, after the first seven months of power, he had already fallen below 50% and in mid-September, the latest data available, was 43%. The Democrat obtains a better grade than Donald Trump after the same term of presidency (37%), although he is nine points behind Barack Obama (53%), due, above all, to the plummeting he has suffered in the support of those independent voters who wanted to leave behind the outrages of their Republican predecessor: if 61% of them clothed him when he was sworn in, now only 37% do.
Economic doubts, the rebound of the pandemic during the summer and reforms that have been stalled are among the reasons for the disappointment. Also immigration policy, which has maintained some restrictive elements of the Trump era, and the disaster caused by the withdrawal from Afghanistan take their toll. A few days after the year of his electoral victory, that change of step that the United States took, a Biden who takes heart from his years in the Capitol is interested in showing that he can move forward with his star legislation.
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