The latest casualty in the reconciliation bill: paid family leave

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Later today, President Biden and the First Lady will be heading to Rome for the annual G-20 conference. Will his massive spending bill be ready for his signature by then? While possible, it really isn’t looking very likely. And if it is, there will be a couple more major Democratic priorities missing from it. During talks last night, the paid family leave proposal was dropped, leading to a situation the Associated Press described as “tempers rising.” If that’s the case, somebody should grab a thermometer and go check on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, because the so-called “billionaires’ tax” also reportedly bit the dust. That last exclusion is somewhat remarkable because the “wealth tax” had only been unveiled the day before. Someone might want to also invest in a bit more personal security for Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema because the progressive caucus seems to be about ready to run them out of town on a rail.

Top Democrats signaled a deal is within reach on President Joe Biden’s big domestic bill but momentum fizzled and tempers flared late Wednesday as a paid family leave proposal fell out and a billionaires’ tax appeared scrapped, mostly to satisfy a pivotal member of the 50-50 Senate.

With his signature domestic initiative at stake, Biden will head to Capitol Hill on Thursday morning to urge Democratic lawmakers to bring talks on the social services and climate change bill “over the finish line” before he departs for global summits overseas.

Still in the mix: expanded health care programs, free pre-kindergarten and some $500 billion to tackle climate change remain in what’s now at least a $1.75 trillion package.

So if we’re doing away with the nonsensical idea of billionaires “paying their fare share” (the prosperous already pay most of the taxes that get paid in America), where will the $1.75 trillion to pay for this bill come from? Remember that Joe Biden has repeatedly said that the total cost of the bill would be “zero” and it wouldn’t be dumped onto our already insane federal debt. The latest scheme is what’s being described as a “surcharge on the wealthy.” That would come in the form of an extra tax of 5% on incomes over $10 million and another 3% on those above $25 million.

Reading through the rest of the report, it’s not exactly clear how and why the child care provision went down. It may have just been yet another cost-cutting measure to get the total price tag down to $1.75 trillion. After a bit of searching, I didn’t find one Democrat – including Manchin and Sinema – who was specifically objecting to the idea. Most of the people who have been opposing it are employers, who would see the other half of their workforce disappearing for as much as half of the year every time their family welcomed a new child into the world. Pete Buttigieg was unavailable for comment.

There was also another major slash to the climate change package. Part of that was yet another effort to bring down the total cost, but it had also been opposed by Manchin. There won’t be any talk of carbon taxes and similar “keep it in the ground” demands, with the bill instead focusing on even more cash rewards to wind and solar companies. That’s great news for people like Al Gore and his friends who invested heavily in those outfits before government subsidies started driving their stocks through the roof.

This is looking more and more like a final solution that won’t please anyone. Conservatives are already locked in against the massive amount of spending and misguided priorities, while liberals are revolting over all of the items being slashed. That reality seems to be reflected in the latest AP/NORC poll that dropped yesterday. Barely a third of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of these spending bills.

The new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 36% of Americans say they approve of Biden’s handling of the negotiations over the bill, while 41% disapprove and 23% say they neither approve nor disapprove. Fewer than half say they know a lot or some about the proposals.

Those are just some brutal numbers, demonstrating both a lack of belief in Biden’s leadership capabilities and a failure to communicate their message to the public competently. But those figures are already pretty close to Uncle Joe’s current approval ratings on his handling of Afghanistan, the border crisis, the economy, and pretty much everything else. I’ve been watching politics for a very long time now and I honestly can’t recall seeing a presidency unravel as fast as this one has in my entire lifetime.