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On The Money: Democratic scramble complicates Biden's human infrastructure plan | Progressives push on student debt relief

On The Money: Democratic scramble complicates Biden's human infrastructure plan | Progressives push on student debt relief
© Greg Nash

Happy Tuesday and welcome back to On The Money, a plant-based newsletter. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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THE BIG DEAL—Democratic scramble complicates Biden's human infrastructure plan:  

Democrats are scrambling to get their priorities included in President BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE’s next major proposal, potentially raising the cost of a measure already expected to run to more than $1 trillion.

What’s going on: Biden is expected to outline a package called the American Families Plan during a speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, which will focus on human infrastructure, such as child care and education.

  • The president sees the package as a way to help families get on a stronger footing than they were prior to the pandemic. 
  • But a number of Democrats want to go well beyond what Biden is expected to propose, including in areas such as tax credits for families, unemployment insurance and health care.

The scrambling means there will likely be a complicated fight that makes it more difficult to get a package through the House and Senate and to Biden’s desk for his signature, particularly if the White House is seeking to keep its overall cost down. And it will open up the Democrats to more attacks from Republicans, who are eager to prove that fiscal discipline is still a desirable quality among politicians. 

The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda breaks it all down here.

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Where Democrats are pushing: 

  • Democratic lawmakers are pressing to make permanent the child tax credit expansion that was enacted by Biden’s relief package in March, which is set to expire after a year, but Biden is likely to propose extending it only through 2025.
  • Lawmakers are also pushing for reforms of the unemployment insurance (UI) system, including federal standards for state benefit levels, expanded eligibility and “triggers” that tie benefits to economic conditions.
  • A group of Democratic lawmakers also sent Biden a letter Friday calling for the plan to include at least $700 billion in investments in child care, which is more than what the president is expected to propose.

Another area where the left wants to see Biden do more is student loan forgiveness. Nearly 100 days into a term that has generally been applauded by progressives, the groups say Biden needs to make student debt forgiveness a bigger priority in the next 100 days. The Hill’s Alex Gangitano explains here.

LEADING THE DAY

Biden to order raising federal contractor minimum wage to $15: President Biden on Tuesday signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 by March 2022.

  • The order will result in a 37-percent raise for federal contractors making the current contracting minimum $10.95, and set their salary at over double the regular statutory federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009.
  • The move would affect hundreds of thousands of workers, according to a senior administration official.

Unlike the federal minimum wage the wage for contractors is funded by the federal government, meaning the costs would theoretically be passed on to the taxpayer or add to the deficit. The Biden administration is arguing that higher wages will lead to less turnover, increased productivity and fewer training costs, creating enough savings to neutralize the higher payroll.

The Hill’s Niv Elis breaks it down here.

Top Senate Democrat announces return of earmarks: Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Biden budget expands government's role in economy House narrowly approves .9B Capitol security bill after 'squad' drama MORE (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, formally announced on Monday a return to earmarks, offering details for how the spending will work in the Senate.

How it will work: 

  • Lawmakers cannot request spending for an item related to their financial interest or those of their immediate family and the request must be made in writing. 
  • The committee will also publicly disclose the requests online.
  • Money for earmarks will be capped at 1 percent of discretionary spending, which Republicans have estimated will amount to roughly $4 billion per side.

There will also be a ban on requesting the earmarks to go toward for-profit entities, and the Government Accountability Office would also be required to audit a sample of enacted earmarks to ensure that the funding was used for its original intent. The Hill’s Jordain Carney explains here.

ON TAP TOMORROW:

GOOD TO KNOW

  • President Biden is expected to propose giving the IRS an additional $80 billion and added authority in order to facilitate his plan to target high earners who avoid paying taxes, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
  • Acting Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Rebecca Kelly Slaughter on Tuesday called for Congress to pass legislation that would revive the agency’s ability to return money to constituents harmed by companies found to engage in deceptive practices. 
  • President Biden on Tuesday tapped a trade policy expert and former union official to lead his administration's "Buy American" effort.
  • U.S. home prices rose at their fastest annual rate since 1996 as a pandemic-fueled housing market frenzy accelerated, according to private sector data released Tuesday.
  • Women and Americans in minority groups are more likely to say that their families are financially worse off now than before the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, according to a new poll.
  • Hundreds of companies have signed on to a coalition in support of the Equality Act, a sweeping civil rights bill that increases protections for LGBTQ people in areas including education, housing and employment.

ODDS AND ENDS