As inflation concerns mount, Republicans, Democrats still at odds over Build Back Better plan
Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Bill Cassidy appeared on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she’s confident President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan will be passed by Christmas, but Republicans, including Sen. Bill Cassidy, are still firmly opposed.
Klobuchar, D-Minn., told "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that the Build Back Better Act would help create jobs, which she said is crucial right now because of labor shortages in certain fields.
"We've got workforce issues, and that's why this Build Back Better Act is so important," Klobuchar said. "We need people, we need kids to go into jobs that we have shortages. We don’t have a shortage of sports marketing degrees. We have a shortage of health care workers. We have a shortage of plumbers, electricians, construction workers. This bill puts us on the right path."
The House passed the $1.7 trillion Build Back Better Act on Nov. 19 along party lines, 220-213, with one Democrat voting "no." The legislation includes $555 billion for climate initiatives, $109 billion for universal pre-K, $150 billion for affordable housing and $167 billion for Medicare expansion.
Cassidy, R-La., told Stephanopoulos the Build Back Better plan is "a bad, bad, bad bill."
"There's corporate welfare. It's going to raise the price of gasoline at least about 20 cents a gallon. And it begins to have federal dictates as to how your child's preschool is handled, the curriculum even," he said.
President Joe Biden applauded the House for passing the Build Back Better Act and said in a statement it would help improve the economy if enacted.
"The United States House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act to take another giant step forward in carrying out my economic plan to create jobs, reduce costs, make our country more competitive, and give working people and the middle class a fighting chance," he said.
The bill now heads to the Senate, but Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Sen. Joe Manchin D-W.Va. -- key players in ensuring that the bill passes in the Senate -- have not agreed to support the latest version of the bill yet.
"Sen. Manchin is still at the negotiating table, talking to us every day, talking to us about voting rights, getting that bill done, restoring the Senate," Klobuchar said. "He's talking to us about this bill."
Cassidy argued that the social spending bill will fuel inflation, which is currently at a 30-year high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Stephanopoulos pointed out that the Biden administration has brought forward 17 Nobel Prize-winning economists who said the bill won't increase inflation, but Cassidy argued that, according to the Washington Post's Fact Checker, those economists "said that was the bill they had then, not the bill they have now."
"They point out that if you are going to avoid inflation, then you've got to be able to pay for it," Cassidy said.
The Washington Post spoke to six of the 17 economists who signed the letter in support of the bill when the package totaled $3.5 trillion. The Post found that while "some indicated that the proposed changes [to the bill] have lessened the potential impact on inflationary pressures," none of them backed away from their signing of the letter.
Inflation has been a mounting concern among Americans. Democrats are concerned, too, as Biden's polling numbers drop, with 55% of Americans disapproving of his handling of the economy and 50% blaming Biden directly for inflation, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.
On Tuesday, Biden announced that he would authorize a release of 50 million barrels from the U.S. strategic oil reserve, hoping to lower surging gas prices.
"I look at it this way -- we’ve got an increased demand, shortage of supply. The petroleum reserve was a temporary measure," Klobuchar said.
Cassidy has blamed the Biden administration for the high gas prices and in a tweet referred to Biden tapping into the strategic oil reserve as a "Band-Aid fix."
Lawmakers are also facing another challenge. In October, Congress voted to temporarily raise the debt ceiling by $480 billion and put off the risk of the United States defaulting on its debt -- which the treasury secretary said would be "catastrophic" -- until mid-December.
Now, the time has come for negotiations to ramp up, but Republicans and Democrats are still butting heads.
"You know, if the Republicans want to scrooge out on us, and increase people’s interest rates and make it hard to make car payments -- go ahead, make that case," Klobuchar said. "We're going to stop them from doing that."
With only a couple weeks left until the U.S. reaches the debt limit, Stephanopoulos pressed Cassidy on why he’s against raising the debt ceiling.
"You mentioned the tax cuts. Republicans passed a huge tax cut under President Trump -- that's one of the things that extending the debt limit has to pay for," Stephanopoulos said. "So why are you against extending the debt limit?"
"The debt limit in the past has been the result of bipartisan negotiations, bipartisan both about the spending, bipartisan both about the debt limit," Cassidy said. "If you haven't noticed, Republicans have not been invited in at all to discuss this."
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