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We are coming upon the important midterm 2022 primaries and elections against a landscape of COVID recovery, the war in Ukraine, inflation, voting restrictions and political division. All campaigns will also be addressing infrastructure, the rise in crime, criminal justice reform, the climate crisis, social spending, and taxes.
How far have we come since the historic 2020 elections, and where do we need to go from here?
The American Rescue Plan Act (March 2021)
The American Rescue Plan Act included a third economic impact payment, additional unemployment benefits, a child tax credit and a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses. These programs have since expired. Money also went to state educational agencies, support for low income families, public health, rental assistance and transportation.
Did the $1.9 trillion bill do what Congress and the president intended? According to financial experts at Moody’s, the Rescue Plan added four million new jobs. In addition, the nation is “currently on track to recover all the jobs lost in the pandemic by the second quarter of 2022.” The $350 billion investment, championed by federal partners, gave state and local leaders a unique opportunity to solve immediate and long-term challenges. A new report from NewDEAL, provides a repository of how state and local governments are investing in a wide array of initiatives that best meet their needs: from infrastructure to health care, to housing, to workforce development, and small businesses. Other cities used the funds to address the digital divide. Overall, local governments have initiated more than 2,300 projects through the American Rescue Plan, according to the Brookings Institute.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
This bipartisan package was signed into law in November 2021 and focused on investments in roads, railways, bridges and broadband internet. The price tag came in at roughly $1 trillion, with $550 billion in new spending over five years. Included are roads, bridges, passenger and freight rail, public transportation, port infrastructure, electric vehicles, power, drinking water, and pollution remediation. The legislation attracted support from 19 Senate Republicans and 13 House GOP members, despite strong opposition from Trump and some GOP leaders.
The final version was a disappointment to many as crucial parts were excluded in the end including investments in housing and education; child care and Medicare expansions; research and development; manufacturing; climate research; and clean energy.
The Build Back Better Act
The Original Version (Oct 2021)
The plan focused on a long list of social policies and programs ranging from education to healthcare to housing to climate.
Included was universal preschool for children, free community college, expanded Medicare services and Medicaid, lower prescription drug costs, tax cuts for families with children and childcare support, 12 weeks of paid family leave, housing investments.
There would be tax cuts for electric vehicles and other climate incentives. Biden’s bill also included tax credits and grants for businesses and communities working towards clean energy initiatives. The Civilian Climate Corps, a government workforce dedicated to environment protection and conservation would be launched and funded. Additionally, utility companies would be subject to a system of payments and fines to clean up emissions from fossil fuels. Over time, these companies would be required to phase in renewable energy to replace fossil fuels.
New tax plans that will cover its cost. Some of the tax changes include repeals on Trump-era tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations, such as: restoring the estate tax and raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 26% (before Trump, the rate was 35%). Additionally, capital gains taxes will be raised from 20% to 25%.
The House Bill (Nov 2021)
Most of the bill’s spending was to help families with children and health care.
The Child Care Plan
Families with children under age 6 get affordable child care for the first time, subsidizing most or all of the cost of their care at licensed providers. The catch here is that the bill only fully funds this plan for three years — 2025 to 2027.
The bill also devotes about $109 billion to funding state expansions of pre-K programs — though here too, the federal money will vanish after six years, in 2028
The federal government, working through private insurers, would help fund paid leave for workers who become new parents or who are seriously ill.
The biggest-ticket item is about $146 billion for in-home care for seniors and the disabled through Medicaid. Medicare would expand to cover hearing benefits.
The bill would fund the subsidies that help people pay for Obamacare individual insurance plans for a few more years This would allow the federal government to negotiate some prescription drug prices in the hopes of driving those prices down. Lastly it would pay for coverage for low-income individuals in states that did not expand Medicaid.
There will be also be more money for existing affordable housing programs, and measures to give unauthorized immigrants temporary work permits and increase legal immigration. It would also spend billions on public health, higher education and transportation projects.
Nearly $500 billion over 10 years (about a quarter of the bill’s spending) is devoted to green energy or other measures meant to fight climate change. The bulk of that money goes to tax credits meant to incentivize clean electricity and transportation as well as energy efficiency for property owners. Unlike social policy programs, Democrats are not setting their new clean energy tax credits to expire after just a few years.
The major punitive policy toward dirty energy that remains in the bill is a fee on methane emissions associated with oil and gas production and transmission. They abandoned a carbon tax or a payment system for utilities using clean energy.
New tax changes that are projected to raise much more money from the very wealthy and corporations but also a large tax cut for well-off people in high-tax (mostly blue) states. The Build Back Better Act would raise a great deal of revenue from higher taxes on some of the wealthiest people in the country and on corporations.
Trumps tax cut bill made a significant change limiting how much state and local taxes were deductible on federal tax returns. House Democrats representing high-tax areas demanded a significant portion of the bill’s spending be devoted to rolling back the change of the SALT deduction over the next five years.
The Bill Hits A Wall in the Senate (Dec 2021)
A month after the House passed a version of Build Back Better last fall, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) came out against the package. With the Senate divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans and the GOP united against the package, Manchin’s support was, and remains, critical to any deal. In addition, Senator Krysten Sinema refused to commit to the plan. Discussions between the White House and key senators on what was once a massive climate and social spending package virtually evaporated.
The Status of Build Back Better (March 2022)
Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) latest proposal on a scaled-down version of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda that would leave out big social spending initiatives like expanded child care, universal pre-kindergarten, national paid family leave and long-term home health care. He is suggesting limiting new spending to climate programs instead of an array of social spending initiatives. Some Democrats say they are growing tired of the back-and-forth with Manchin, which has dragged on for months, leaving them deeply frustrated over their inability to strike a deal.
President Biden has tried to resurrect the legislation. Biden’s efforts include ditching the name and rebranding the policies as measures to curb inflation. Senate Democrats are also holding hearings on issues like prescription drug prices to try to keep talks going.
Here are three possible routes Democrats could take as they try to salvage the BBB legislation.
1. A Deficit Reducing Deal – In early March, Manchin effectively put a new offer on the table, saying he’d be willing to consider legislation that focuses on prescription drug prices, tax reforms, and climate investments as long as half the revenue it raises is targeted to paying down the deficit.
Presently, in late March, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told a group of climate activists and energy executives he’s open to supporting revised Build Back Better legislation narrowly addressing three issues: climate change, prescription drug prices and deficit reduction. Now Administration officials are weighing which policies boosting domestic energy production could help win support from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) for climate legislation.
2. Lawmakers turn to BiPartisan Bills – Previously, Sens. Wyden and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had reached an agreement on legislation that would limit the out-of-pocket prices seniors on Medicare would have to pay for drugs. Senator Warnock is also leading a bill that could cap the monthly price of insulin at $35, a proposal that has gotten positive feedback from some Republicans. These agreements, however, are inferior to the original proposals. Wyden and Grassley’s bill did not enable Medicare to negotiate drug prices like the budget bill would, for example. Romney’s child tax credit policy would also impose more work requirements for people to receive the benefit, which Democrats’ proposal did not. In the end, though several of these bills have Republican support, getting 10 GOP members to sign on in the Senate will still be a challenge.
3. No Version of Build Back Better Passes – the darkest scenario. Democrats have a packed spring schedule and a limited window to get legislation done before this fall’s elections.
Inflation and The War in Ukraine
The global implications of the war in Europe has forced candidates in both parties to adjust their political playbooks to account for a rapidly evolving new issue that, at its core, has united voters in support of aiding the Ukrainian resistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression, but also underscored the rigid partisan divide that defines modern American politics. While Democrats see vindication for Biden, Trump’s influence looms over the Republican response.
Soaring consumer prices are undermining President Biden’s economic approval ratings, making inflation a critical topic for the White House headed into midterm elections — and making fighting it a focus of the administration’s budget, even though the Federal Reserve plays the primary role in countering rapid price increases. Mr. Biden’s administration, in its budget proposal released Monday, emphasized that some of the investments it is making or proposing could lower costs for families. Fed policymakers are hoping that their policy changes, paired with further supply chain and labor market healing, will help them to return annual inflation to 4.3 percent by the end of the year.
House Democrats’ political fate is tied to Biden, whose administration faces record-high inflation and drastically increasing gas prices as the U.S. works to damage Russia’s economy over its invasion of Ukraine. The rise in consumer goods is so challenging that Representative Axne has made combatting inflation a priority. She’s releasing agendas geared towards addressing supply chain bottlenecks, joining working groups in Congress that aim to advance policy solutions to lower inflation, and conceding that rising prices are not so much a blip on the radar as they are a persistent problem that requires multifaceted legislative solutions.
Crime and Criminal Justice Reform
Even as the upcoming midterm elections make for a rocky path to bipartisan reforms, there are plenty of opportunities in 2022 for federal, state, and local leaders to make a more fair and accountable criminal justice system. They include #1 Policing: Responding to a spike in homicides with evidence-based strategies, #2 Pretrial: Bipartisan state-level bail reform, #3 Fines and Fees: Abolishing juvenile fines and fees, #4 Community Supervision: Piloting innovative solutions to reduce probation revocations and #5 Corrections: New standards and practices for the first time in 40 years.
With violent crime rates rising and elections looming, progressive prosecutors are facing resistance to their plans to roll back stricter crime policies of the 1990s. Rising homicide and violent crime rates have even Democrats in liberal cities calling for more law enforcement, not less — forcing prosecutors to defend their policies against their own allies. The criticisms from two prominent Black mayors are particularly biting. These mayors have argued that the minority communities that want racism rooted from the justice system also want more robust policing and prosecutions.
President Biden will propose more that $32 billion in new spending to fight crime. His budget proposal will include $20.6 billion for the next fiscal year for Department of Justice discretionary spending on federal law enforcement, crime prevention and intervention. The expanded discretionary spending would increase resources for federal prosecutors and give additional resources to state and local law enforcement to put more police on the beat
The Wealth Tax
President Biden proposed raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, outlining several initiatives in his 2023 budget aimed at bringing down the federal budget deficit and closing loopholes that allow the rich to lower their tax bills. The “Billionaire Minimum Income Tax” would apply only to the top one-hundredth of 1 percent of American households, and over half of the revenue would come from those worth more than $1 billion. The proposal focuses on taxing unrealized capital gains that are built up over years but are taxed only when sold for a profit. The White House estimates that the new tax would raise about $360 billion in revenue over a decade.
The Voting Rights Bill
The 1965 Voting Rights Act was the most successful civil rights legislation in our country’s history until the Supreme Court gutted the law in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. Section 4 of the VRA had jurisdictions “preclear” changes to the election rules with the federal gov’t. This step was massively successful at improving voting access. The 2013 Supreme Court decision declared that coverage formal was out of date. The decision in Shelby County opened the floodgates to laws restricting voting throughout the United States.
The Assault on Voting Rights Today:
The Court further weakened the law’s protections against voting discrimination in another case in 2022 in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. The decision held that Arizona laws discounting ballots cast out of precinct and banning non-relative neighbors or friends to deliver mail-in ballots did not violate Section 2 of the VRA , despite these laws’ negative effects on Black and brown voters.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, were approved by the House in Fall 2021. The Freedom to Vote Act would expand voter registration, expand voting access with guidelines for mail-in voting and early voting, establish Election Day as a federal holiday, and prevent state lawmakers from redrawing districts so as to disadvantage Black and Brown voters. Additionally, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the Justice Department’s authority to police election laws in states with a history of discrimination.
These measures were blocked by the Senate in January 2022 when Democrats tailed to overcome a Republican blockade or unite their own members behind a change in filibuster rules to pass it. Now Democrats face an electoral landscape in which they will need to spend heavily to register and mobilize voters if they are to overcome the hodgepodge of new voting restrictions enacted by Republicans across the country.
Democrats could enter the 2022 midterms as the responsible grown-ups who finally tamed a deadly scourge. Or, if Republicans succeed in branding mask and vaccine mandates as nanny-state overreach, voters could punish them in the fall. Most likely, both narratives will compete for attention as the virus itself casts the determining vote.
Governors up for re-election must weigh two uncertainties: how much the public will tolerate the kinds of restrictions they imposed in the pandemic’s early days, and to what extent the shield wall provided by the vaccine will hold. Republican strategists see mandates as increasingly unpopular with suburban women, among other key segments of the electorate.
- All House seats are up for re-election. Determine if a Senator is up for re-election in your state. Donate, volunteer and support your Representatives and/or Senator campaign(s). Attend town halls, fundraisers, and all outreach opportunities.
- There are 36 gubernatorial seats on the ballot, in addition to 88 state legislative chambers in 46 states.
- Confirm when primaries are held in your state. Become informed, ask questions and become involved.
- Get involved with all GOTV (Get Out The Vote) campaigns nation wide. They often involve writing letters, postcards, text messages, and phone banks. Volunteer for local registration drives.
Rock The Vote
Contact your local Indivisible group to see what drives they have begun on the federal and state levels.
A Pivotal Point For America