Bernie Sanders to progressives: Don’t surrender

Sen. Bernie Sanders said it would be better to halt a bipartisan congressional infrastructure deal after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi derailed progressives’ strategy for voting on both measures, then to capitulate to the political establishment.

Since June, when President Joe Biden reached a bipartisan deal in the Senate on a $1 trillion roads-and-bridges bill, the White House and Pelosi have vowed to bring that measure to a vote in the House at the same time as a ten-year $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.

Pelosi’s move on Tuesday blew up that strategy, and progressives are furious.

“I strongly urge my House colleagues to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill until Congress passes a strong reconciliation bill,” the independent senator from Vermont wrote on Twitter.

A band of renegade Democrats led by New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer was seeking to push through a tax deduction for wealthy people in blue states, and Republicans are hoping to prevent Biden from achieving any success. Undermining the consensus deal could serve either purpose.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate has reached a deal to avoid a government shutdown, but if  lawmakers can keep things running, they will only prevent one looming crisis.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress the U.S. will run out of ways to pay its bills around Oct. 18 unless lawmakers raise or suspend the debt limit — creating once again the prospect of a first-ever default that could wreck the global economy.

Republicans extorted concessions using threats of a default during the Obama administration.

The GOP readily increased the debt limit, which allows the government to pay bills it already incurred, three times while President Donald Trump occupied the White House and plunged the nation $8 trillion deeper in debt during his four years in power.

Not since World War II has the country seen deficits during times of low unemployment that were as large as those that Trump and his Republican allies in Congress rang up, but now that the Democrats are in power the GOP is gambling with the fate of civilization.

Adding to the danger are Gottheimer and other corporate Democrats whose loyalty to big campaign contributors outweighs their allegiance to Biden, the party or the American people.

Still, after decades of experiencing surrender, capitulation and compromise the progressive Democratic base is willing to fight back as centrists like Biden and Pelosi recognize the need to attack the climate crisis, compel the richest Americans to pay a greater share of taxes and restore the quality of life for middle-class workers who are often unable to make ends meet on low wages that resulted from discredited trickle-down policies.

At stake is a $350 billion per year plan to invest in better quality of life priorities over the next decade, which is often less accurately described as Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan, which is slated to go through the budget reconciliation process.

That plan finances expanded services, such as Medicare coverage for dental, vision and hearing plus tuition-free community college and universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

Under current law, families receive $3,600 per child under age 6, and $3,000 per child age 6 to 18, but the reconciliation bill would extend those middle-class tax benefits through 2025.

Most individuals making up to $75,000 or married couples making up to $150,000 receive monthly child tax credit payments of either $250 or $300 per child.

Biden has touted the tax credit’s success in lifting children out of poverty, but Senator Joe Manchin thinks the social spending package should impose requirements that could force parents into low-wage jobs. 

For the first time in history, the U.S. would have comprehensive paid leave, covering 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. The legislation would replace at least two-thirds of earnings, up to $4,000 per month, while the lowest-paid workers would receive 80% of their income. 

Democrats have included a tax plan to pay for the provisions in the reconciliation bill. 

The corporate tax rate would rise from 21% to 26%, and the top income tax rate for Americans making over $400,000 would increase from 37% to 39.6%. The top capital gains rate would also go from 20% to 25%.

At least 60 profitable corporate giants paid no federal income tax under the current revenue code and a blockbuster report recently revealed that billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth — sometimes, even nothing.

Democrats are also looking to beef up tax enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service as a vehicle for paying for the package. 

House progressives who are allied with Sanders have threatened to withhold their support on the infrastructure package if it not paired with the reconciliation bill.

Some have openly expressed distrust that the ‘Vichy Democrats’ will follow through on their promise to support the reconciliation bill if the vote on the Senate infrastructure bill goes first.

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