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US Democrats remain split on massive social spending bill

US Democrats remain divided on the Party’s massive social spending package, as Party progressives dig in their heels and show no sign of backing down.

After months of infighting between progressives in the Democratic Party and two moderate senators, the former group continues to push for a massive spending bill that will vastly widen the nation’s social safety net.

Members of the Democratic Progressive Caucus this week re-asserted that they will not vote to pass a much-needed bipartisan infrastructure bill without also advancing their trillion US dollar social spending plan.

Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, on Thursday voiced her and her colleagues’ opposition to passing the $550 billion infrastructure package without the $1.75 trillion social spending bill.

“Members of our caucus will not vote for the infrastructure bill without the Build Back Better Act. We will work immediately to finalize and pass both pieces of legislation through the House together,” Jayapal said, referring to the official name of the massive social spending bill progressives are champing at the bit to pass.

Jayapal’s statement comes on the heels of US President Joe Biden’s Capitol Hill visit on Thursday, when he met with Democrats in a bid to discuss the $1.75 trillion social spending plan.

Rep Rashida Tlaib, another progressive, said she would vote “hell no” on the infrastructure bill unless it moves through Congress simultaneously with the social spending bill.

The social spending package has hit a stalemate due to the last two holdouts in the Senate – Democratic Sens Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

Manchin has repeatedly taken issue with the sky-high price tag of the legislation, and has repeatedly held fast to a top-line figure of $1.5 trillion for the social spending package.

Sinema has been silent on the issue for months. However, AZcentral, a local media outlet in her district, reported that the senator “signaled support” for a version of the bill Biden unveiled on Thursday, including a provision intended to limit the cost of Medicare prescription drugs.

The White House earlier this week unveiled a less-expensive version of the original social spending bill. Priced at $1.75 trillion – around half the cost of the original version – the legislation would overhaul the nation’s education, tax and climate laws and health care.

Biden’s less expensive version was an effort to get the ball rolling, after months of stalled negotiations in the Democratic Party.

The bill, if passed, would be the most far-reaching social legislation in perhaps a decade, offering free pre-kindergarten and investing heavily in the nation’s social safety net. It also includes tax credits for low-income families.

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua news agency that “some version of the bill will pass because Biden’s presidency is on the line.”

“It would be catastrophic for Democrats not to be able to reach an agreement. Given the importance of passage for the president and his party, it is hard to imagine they won’t resolve the remaining questions pretty soon,” West said.

Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, said: “I originally thought this bill would pass in early fall. Now I think the odds are only 50-50.”

Republicans are livid over the bill, which they refer to as a socialist power grab by Democrats that will add trillions to the already heavy national debt.

Divisions with the Democratic Party, as well as with the GOP, underscore a cavernous ideological gap that has only increased over the past decades. At its core, Democrats – with support in urban and coastal areas – favour a larger government role. Republicans, which tend to be centered in rural areas, prefer smaller government.

Amanda Lowry, a student in her mid-20s in the Washington DC area, told Xinhua she welcomed parts of the bill that provide child care, saying it’s “good for the economy,” as more “women will be able to work.”

Jerrod King, a mid-level manager in his 40s in the state of Pennsylvania, said he is not in favour of the bill, particularly an earlier version that provided free community college. “You can pay for your own community college,” he said, arguing that it’s cheap enough for many Americans to afford.