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Cutting Massive Bill Threatens to Blow Up Progressive Unity

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Democrats promised to Build Back Better in the Joe Biden era, but the political reality surrounding their marquee policy package is forcing them to pick between two far more diminished mantras: Do Less Better, or Do More Worse.

Over the summer, Democrats laid the groundwork for a sprawling $3.5 trillion bill that would substantially fund a number of their top priorities, from expanding Medicare to include dental and vision benefits, to implementing aggressive new climate change measures, to making community college tuition free and pre-K universal.

But a group of centrists are objecting to the size and scope of that proposal, and with Democrats unable to lose a single vote in the U.S. Senate, lawmakers are moving toward a smaller package that could end up investing $2 trillion less than what leaders set out to.

That prospect sets up painful decisions for Democrats, particularly progressives, about which items to prioritize and which to table. But it’s also sparking a broader debate that is scrambling factional lines within the party—and could complicate the unified front that has made the progressive wing an effective force in negotiations so far.

The more moderate wing of the party prefers the Do Less Better mantra: pick a set of programs that are most vital and give them piles of long-term funding, with the goal of creating stable and successful initiatives that Democrats can campaign on for years. That would likely encompass things like making the child tax credit permanent and implementing universal paid leave.

Progressives, meanwhile, largely prefer the Do More Worse approach—though they probably would not call it that. They believe they now have a rare opportunity to enact the sweeping legislation voters elected them to pass and must maintain the vast scope of the legislation, even if they can only fund much of it for a short time.

Some lawmakers are convinced that these programs will be so popular that it could help keep the party in power, or at least make it near-impossible for the GOP to repeal them. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), a leading progressive, has proposed that funding for key programs run out after the 2024 presidential elections, enabling the party to put them “on the ballot” that year.

“I am confident that by ’24, these programs would have proved very popular,” Khanna told The Daily Beast.

Others look at recent history and don’t see that fight going their way. They feel that Republicans would gladly run against these programs, and either way worry that GOP control of Congress or the gridlock of divided government would ensure that Democrats’ signature bill is dismantled in........

© The Daily Beast

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