House vote on historic Build Back Better and infrastructure bills draws near
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joins Rev. William Barber, center left, and the Poor People's Campaign outside the Capitol in Washington, Aug. 25, 2021. The House will soon vote on the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills, which the Poor People's Campaign has fought hard for. | J. Scott Applewhite / AP

WASHINGTON—Amid continued sniping from so-called “moderate” Democrats, the House is scheduled to vote on Nov. 4—or possibly later—on the revised Build Back Better legislation Democratic President Joe Biden and House leaders worked out.

As members of the House pass the new 10-year Build Back Better plan, on party-line votes, they’ll also tackle the five-year “hard” infrastructure plan to repair or replace the nation’s crumbling roads, collapsing bridges, creaky subways, lead-lined water pipes, and aging railroads, while bringing broadband service to the whole country, among other goals.

The revised Build Back Better plan now includes, again, four weeks of paid family and medical leave, a provision the “moderates,” particularly Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and the Republicans oppose.

And, beholden to campaign contributions and dark money from Big Pharma, the Republicans and the other holdout Senate “moderate,” Arizonan Kyrsten Sinema, are leery of another provision added back in, limiting the price of insulin and allowing Medicare to bargain down some prescription drug prices.

BBB is a wide expansion of the nation’s frayed social safety net that will benefit millions of Americans, a point Democrats have failed to stress or at least benefit from electorally so far. And it’ll be paid for by increasing taxes on the nation’s 700 billionaires and on oil, gas, and coal companies. They will, in effect, be helping to pay for measures to curb the devastating effects of carbon emissions to which they have so heavily contributed. Both the expansion and the higher taxes on the ultra-rich are politically popular, opinion polls show.

It also features much higher fines for a wider range of employer labor law-breaking, such as fines for “captive audience” meetings and their anti-union harangues. And BBB’s labor provisions, taken from the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, would apply to corporate honchos, lawyers, lobbyists, boards, and other abettors of law-breaking.

All this will be in the BBB bill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., plans to bring up, along with the hard infrastructure bill, although The Hill reported the votes could slide into the weekend. Pelosi wrote to colleagues the day before that their own input—read “pressure”—restored paid leave. The catch is the original BBB bill, technically a budget “reconciliation” bill, had 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 4, the Poor People’s Campaign spoke virtually with noted economist Jeffrey Sachs. Sachs joins the PPC on Monday in Charleston, W. Va. for a community forum that starts at 2 p.m. in another drive to change Manchin’s mind.

“This debate should be about who gets hurt if we don’t do this, not distortion and verbal shell games about deficits,” said the Rev. William Barber, the campaign co-chair. “From the beginning, we have said that a failure to address the issues facing the 140 million poor and low-wealth people in the country with real concrete policies is constitutionally inconsistent, morally indefensible, economically insane, and politically incompetent.

“We will not allow the constant lies of one senator to hurt millions of us. Poor and low-income people have grandchildren too, and this Build Back Better Act is a step in the right direction for the future of this entire nation.”

The so-called Democratic moderates, many of them beholden to corporate campaign contributions, or from backgrounds that lead them towards the 1%, disagree. They also are claiming that the Build Back Better agenda could, due to its cost, will drive GOP victories next year.

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., a Trumpite clone whose party trails the Democrats 221-213, bragged after GOP gains in the 2021 off-year election that his troops would pick up 60 seats next November. That spooked the “moderates,” too.

One, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., a former CIA analyst, expressed their attitude by telling the New York Times about Biden: “Nobody elected him to be F.D.R., they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos,” perpetrated by Donald Trump.

On the Senate side, Manchin took a pot shot at the progressives and at Biden, too, when he said that if progressives really want to get their platform to pass they should “elect more progressives and then they won’t need people like me.”

What the Manchins and Spanbergers didn’t say is that an FDR-type platform, expanding the social safety net the New Deal originally created, is exactly what Biden and all the Democrats touted on the campaign trail in 2020. Biden and that progressive platform won more than 81 million votes, clearing Trump out of the White House.

Since then it is the progressives, not the moderates, who have been making all the compromises. On the BBB bill, they have gone down from their starting point of $6 trillion to $1.75 trillion while the “moderates,” even at that figure, continue to drag their feet.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.