President Biden unveiled a $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan. Here's what's in it
SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
President Joe Biden admitted that not everyone, himself included, is completely happy with what made it into the $1.75 trillion framework for his domestic spending bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi conceded one big priority, paid family leave, did not make it into the package. But she touted other priorities that did.
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NANCY PELOSI: Nearly a trillion dollars in universal pre-K, child care, child tax credit, home health care and the rest.
MCCAMMON: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, who covers Congress, joins us now to talk about what policies are in that bill and what is not. Hi, Dierdre.
DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Sarah.
MCCAMMON: OK, let's start out with what's in this framework. What made it in?
WALSH: There's a lot of significant policies that the president and Democrats campaigned on in 2020. They really want to change the conversation now away from the price tag, to what the bill costs, to what it will actually do for Americans. Some of the items that are going to be in are universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. They can pay for that for six years. Child care support for roughly 20 million children - also paid for for six years. Elder care programs are in there. There's an extension of a popular child tax credit for one year.
And for climate programs, there's a half-a-trillion dollars that will pay for a mix of tax credits to expand solar energy, increase electronic - electric vehicle usage, all trying to get to this goal that the president set of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by the year 2030. Health care programs are also a big focus in this package. They extend - Democrats are extending tax credits for the Affordable Care Act through 2025. And they're expanding Medicaid coverage. There's also money for housing programs.
MCCAMMON: As we mentioned, paid family leave was one of the big items that got jettisoned. Tell us more about that and what else was cut here.
WALSH: Well, the bill shrank from the original $3.5 trillion plan that they were trying to get through to a $1.75 trillion plan. So some items just didn't fit within that or were opposed by influential Democrats in the process. As you talked about, paid family leave was one. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin wouldn't agree to that. He argued that adding new policy to a budget bill wasn't appropriate. But evidently, he's talking about it with other Democrats to try to do it separately. On the climate piece, the program that Democrats wanted to incentivize utility companies to change to greener technologies or pay penalties was also opposed by Manchin, so that's also out.
Another popular provision, having Medicare negotiate new prices - lower prices for prescription drugs was opposed by a small group of centrist Democrats, including Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. So that's also out. Other programs were just too expensive. The one for free community college for two years just wasn't able to fit in the package. Senator Bernie Sanders wanted to expand Medicare to cover vision and dental, but they were only able to cover hearing.
MCCAMMON: It sounds like a lot of what got changed was down to Senators Manchin and Sinema. Are they on board fully with this slimmed-down plan?
WALSH: Not exactly. Progressives really want both Manchin and Sinema to explicitly say they're going to vote for this bill, but they're calling it progress, and Manchin is talking about working in good faith, with the suggestion that the program could change. Democrats are still lobbying to get things in this framework. So it fears - appears to be kind of a moving target. But the president was very blunt yesterday, telling Democrats his presidency and the fate of their majorities in 2022 are tied to getting this agenda through. It's not just the spending bill; it's a separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. So they're going to try to, next week, get back to it, work on both bills and try to get them both through.
MCCAMMON: All right. NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thank you.
WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.