- Former President Barack Obama weighed in on the reworked Biden infrastructure plan on Thursday.
- Obama said it represents “a giant leap forward” despite major elements being left out.
- He said the omissions ahead of a formal bill text are “the nature of progress in a democracy.”
Taking the long view in his typical style, former President Barack Obama issued a statement Thursday touting the reworked “Build Back Better Framework” despite several key progressive priorities falling by the wayside.
“In a country as large and diverse as ours, progress can often feel frustrating and slow, with small victories accompanied by frequent setbacks,” Obama said in the statement from his post-presidency office. “But once in a while, it’s still possible to take a giant leap forward.”
In a far cry from the $US6 ($AU8) trillion proposal progressives floated earlier in the year, major components such as paid family leave and a reduction in the cost of prescription drugs have been left out. The framework even cuts the initial compromise that Democrats struck in half.
Obama emphasized what remains in the $US1.75 ($AU2) trillion framework.
“Under this framework, families everywhere will be able to afford childcare, and millions of children will get a stronger start through universal preschool,” he continued. “Historic investments in clean energy will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and help us once again lead the world in the fight against climate change. Millions of Americans will gain access to health care, and millions more will save money on their premiums. And we’ll pay for all of it by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay more of their fair share in taxes.”
Indeed, while the package doesn’t include the aforementioned progressive priorities, there’s still quite a bit tucked into the proposed spending.
For instance, the framework would enact universal preschool, and allocate funding towards making childcare more affordable. The White House estimates that the expansion will give 20 million children access to care. Care investments will also extend to older Americans and those with disabilities, with funding towards expanding Medicaid programs for home care.
Americans would also see major tax credits and breaks continue. Those include Affordable Care Act premiums, which insure 3 million people who would go without otherwise, according to the White House. The beefed-up child tax credit, which currently gives monthly checks to families, would be extended for a year. The same would be true for the increased Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which currently gives low-income Americans a tax break.
Healthcare would also get more affordable and broader: The framework brings down premiums for 9 million Americans who get their insurance through the Affordable Care Act, according to the White House, as well extend the Affordable Care Act premiums to Americans who can’t get Medicaid in their states. Significantly, Medicare would also cover hearing aids.
But the biggest investment of all comes in the form of addressing the climate crisis, with Biden aiming to invest $US555 ($AU736) billion. That investment will create a new Civilian Climate Corps, give families rebates for using clean-energy infrastructure, and, according to the White House, will get the country on track to reach its climate targets.
It’s even earned the praise of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw many of his key provisions get axed in the framework’s latest iteration: “Amidst all of the dickering and the concerns, let us understand: this is by far the most significant piece of legislation ever passed in the world, I think, to deal with climate,” Sanders told reporters.
What’s in the framework:
- Universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds
- Investments in childcare, housing, and clean energy
- One-year expanded child tax credit
- Four-year extension of Affordable Care Act health-insurance subsidies
- Hearing covered by Medicare
- $US100 ($AU133) billion for immigration reform