by Jonathan Lemire, Zeke Miller and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden’s plan for a massive expansion of social programs is being hailed by supporters as a high-stakes effort saying it is “too big to fail.” It might even be too big to describe.
It’s a particular challenge as the White House struggles to sell the public on a wide range of initiatives packaged under the slogan “Build Back Better.”
From Afghanistan to COVID-19, a series of crises, along with a complicated legislative process, hindered the White House’s ability to promote or even say definitively a $3.5 trillion package That’s what’s in it. The price tag is sure to shrink and it’s possible that components may change.
The package, which is now the subject of raging talks on Capitol Hill, will radically change the government’s relationship with its citizens and dramatically expand the social safety net.
It set out to broaden well-known programs – for example, adding dental vision and hearing aid benefits to Medicare and continuing the temporary subsidies of an Obama-era health law that helped people buy insurance during the pandemic,
But concerns have grown among congressional Democrats during the talks, with some of the blame being placed on Biden. He had planned to spend driving support for the law in recent weeks, but was put aside by uproar in Afghanistan and a rise in coronavirus cases.
Some Democrats worry that the president’s pitch on the package doesn’t always click with those looking for a more concrete idea of what’s in it for him.
David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to the president, said, “This is a case where the parts are more than the sum: it is important for people to know what those parts are, they are very popular and will have a very positive impact on people’s lives.” ” Barack Obama. “But it’s become a battle over the price tag and it’s not attractive. That’s the battlefield Republicans want Democrats to fight.”
Polls show that elements such as child care and infrastructure in the bill are popular with large sections of the public. But advocates worry that voters don’t know those things are in the plan.
Robert Blendon, a longtime opinion analyst at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, “‘Building Back Better’ doesn’t tell people what we’re building back—at least when you talk about bridges, So people have an idea.” . “It’s the price you pay when you’re not dealing with a single issue. … ‘Building back’ is the slogan, but there’s no evidence that the public understands what’s in this bill. Is.”
The need for a reset was so clear that the West Wing decided that White House press secretary Jen Psaki would begin Monday’s briefing by giving a detailed account of what is in the bill. That’s according to more than a half-dozen White House aides and Democrats close to the West Wing, who were interviewed for this story but spoke on condition of anonymity because they would rather publicly discuss private conversations. were not authorized.
Saki began the briefing by saying: “I just wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone, especially the public, that what we’re talking about with these packages is and the president is going to take his agenda forward.” Why are you working so hard for it?”
Then she went through the elements of the package, which include a plan to promote climate change, lower education costs and access to child care.
White House aides say this is not the right time for Biden to promote his agenda. They note that major Democratic Sens. Arizona’s Kirsten Cinema and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin are generally unresponsive to national political pressure—and certainly not to the demands of the president.
Aides believe it is better for Biden to talk about what would be necessary to get those two Democrats on board. The president canceled plans for a Wednesday visit to Chicago to promote vaccination so that he can stay in Washington as talks reach a critical stage.
The Biden administration has found itself increasingly distant from its intended message of a nation returning to new heights. According to an administration official, early signs of an economic boom from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package were due to shortages of computer chips and other goods that led to high inflation, a persistent problem that was largely unreported by Biden’s team.
Some Democrats are pushing for a hands-on approach on how to sell the big bill, believing the details shouldn’t be as much of a surprise.
Beyond the new programs, the package builds on long-standing democratic priorities on health care, education and climate change, on which many lawmakers have campaigned.
“This agenda isn’t some fringe wish list: it’s the presidential agenda, the Democratic agenda, and we all promised voters when they gave us the House, the Senate, and the White House,” said Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal, president of Congress of Progressives. The caucus said in a statement.
This has not satisfied some Democratic allies.
For example, $10 billion for high-speed rail was moved from a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill to a larger package of spending initiatives. US High Speed Rail Association President and CEO Andy Kunz urged Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to sell it more strongly. What’s at stake here,” he said.
With hurricanes, floods and wildfires dominating local news for most of the summer, the mechanism in Washington has not reached the point where people are actually following the debate.
“The top concern about messaging is that it’s not getting far and wide,” said Margarida George, campaign director for Lower Drug Price Now, a coalition that supports a component of Biden’s bill for Medicare. The right to negotiate the prices of medicines.
“People in most states are not reading about the contents of the bill,” George said. “If they’re studying anything it’s about size.”
Associated Press writers Josh Bok, Hope Yen, Lisa Mascaro and Emily Swanson contributed to this report.