Finance

Economists call on Congress to ‘swiftly’ pass sweeping climate and social policy bill

Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) arrives for a press conference after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, December 7, 2021.
Greg Nash

More than 50 economists have signed on to a new letter calling on Congress to “swiftly” pass President Biden’s sweeping climate and social policy bill, arguing that it would alleviate some of the pressures of inflation by lowering health care and other costs for families.

The signatories of the letter include Alan Blinder, who served as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve in the 1990s, and Elgie Holstein, senior director for strategic planning at the Environmental Defense Fund and a former economic adviser in the Clinton White House.

It comes amid uncertainty surrounding the path forward for the massive bill, which Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is hoping to bring to the floor before the chamber leaves for the holidays.

“Congress can alleviate some of the strain caused by inflation by passing the Build Back Better Act, which will lower everyday costs for families, including child care, health care, utility bills, prescription drugs, and education,” states the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill ahead of its release. “These investments, combined with the Build Back Better Act’s tax credits for the middle class, will help allow families to keep more money in their pockets.”

“Overall, the Build Back Better Act will foster a more equitable, sustainable economy by creating millions of jobs, lowering costs, and cutting taxes for American families. We urge Congress to swiftly pass this critical legislation into law,” the letter continues.

The letter was organized by Invest in America Action, a liberal group that has advocated for the passage of Biden’s full domestic agenda.

Republicans have hammered Democrats over inflation, blaming rising prices on Biden’s agenda. Economists say inflation has been driven by the pandemic, though some say the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law passed this year is partially to blame.

A Monmouth University poll released this week found that roughly 3 in 10 Americans surveyed name everyday bills or inflation as the biggest concern they face.

The letter was sent just ahead of the Labor Department’s release of the consumer price index, a key metric of inflation.

The letter echoes the White House’s argument that Democrats’ roughly $2 trillion climate and social spending legislation, which passed the House ahead of Thanksgiving break, would lower costs for middle-class families because of the extension of the expanded child tax credit, funding to expand access to child care and other provisions.

Passing the legislation will be tricky in the Senate, where seats are evenly split between the parties with Vice President Harris casting the tie-breaking vote for the Democrats. No Republicans are expected to vote for the package, and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have expressed reservations about it.

Manchin has raised ongoing concerns about inflation and warned Democrats against rushing to pass the package as recently as Tuesday.

“The unknown we’re facing today is much greater than the need that people believe in this aspirational bill that we’re looking at, and we’ve got to make sure we get this right,” Manchin said during a Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit on Tuesday evening.

The legislation is paid for through tax increases and enhanced IRS enforcement, though the  Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the package would add about $367 billion to the deficit over the next decade. That number, however, does not take into account $207 billion in revenue that the CBO estimates would be raised by providing the IRS with more money for enforcement.

The White House has sought to counter Manchin’s concerns.

“We are quite confident that if the question is, what can we do to address the costs that are most pressing to American families, that if that is the debate and that is the discussion, then the case for the Build Back Better Act only gets stronger and that we are building momentum around that set of arguments,” White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told reporters during a briefing Thursday.

Tags Alan Blinder Brian Deese Build Back Better Act Charles Schumer climate and social spending bill Elgie Holstein Inflation Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema

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