Democrats are starting to sell huge spending bills as an attack on Republicans


Lawson, Colorado. Senator Michael Bennett stands next to Clear Creek, a popular whitewater rafting destination at this gateway to the Rocky Mountains west of Denver, as he bid for $60 billion in new spending to protect the state’s forests and watersheds from frequent fires and their wide impact.

“It feels like a lot of money,” Bennett, the Colorado Democrat, admitted, as a group of officials and business leaders nodded in agreement. “But that’s what we spend in five years fighting bushfires.”

While $60 billion is already a steep price tag, $3.5 trillion is a lot bigger. This is the total cost of the Democrats’ budget scheme Muscle through the Senate and House Last month, we hope it turns into a bill President Biden can sign in the coming weeks as they resist Republican attacks on the scale and scope of the measure — and some sticky shocks on their part, too.

Calculating that voters might be more receptive if they understood the tangible benefits of the emerging measure, Democrats proceeded to show detailed nationwide sales of an expanded budget plan and related bipartisan public works measure of $1 trillion to win over his voters and others around the nation.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent overseeing economic package development as chair of the Budget Committee, spent three days traveling across the Midwest, explaining the policy ambitions of Democratic majorities to hundreds of people in Republican-leaning districts.

The Democratic National Committee has just concluded a multi-state bus tour called “Building Back Better.” Participants extolled the virtues of democratic governance, trying to show voters in places like Arizona, Carolina, Michigan, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin the realistic ramifications of bills that haven’t passed and measures that have already been approved, such as $1.9 trillion pandemic relief legislation It was released this year due to unanimous Republican opposition. Other Democrats are making similar calls and pushing the legislation on their social media accounts.

“Ultimately, these are real-world things that are going to have a huge impact on the way people are going to live their lives in a way we haven’t seen in politics from the federal government in a very long time,” said Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee and a regular bus ride.

But the Democrats won’t have a chance to make their case. Republicans in Congress are lining up strongly against the budget proposal, which Democrats plan to push unilaterally using A maneuver known as reconciliation. Along with conservative advocacy groups, they are already on the offensive, using the plan as fodder to raise money and broadcast ads in states and districts of weak Democrats in Congress, urging them to oppose a measure that would require full Democratic unity to pass an evenly divided Senate.

For example, Senator Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, noted in a fundraising appeal that Mr. Sanders stopped in Indiana to pay “a reckless liberal wish-list budget” and warned that the cost would hurt American families.

Republicans say the partisan nature of the bill, which will be considered under special rules that exempt it from delay, as well as the huge amount of spending and the inclusion of special interest provisions, will alienate swing suburban voters who pushed Mr. Biden scored the victory and helped the Democrats hold the House and win the Senate in 2020.

They argue that a potential backlash to the bill, along with dissatisfaction with the Biden administration’s handling of Afghanistan and the pandemic, creates a receptive environment for Republicans battling to regain control of Congress in 2022.

“The American people don’t buy what they sell,” said Kevin McLaughlin, a veteran Republican campaign activist who campaigns against the budget bill through the Common Sense Leadership Fund. The group began broadcasting targeted ads last week Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Mark Kelly of Arizona, two Democrats facing tough battles for re-election.

“For liberals in Washington, a $3 trillion power grab is their wildest fantasy ever,” says the ad, which ends viewers’ quest to call on senators to oppose the “liberal dream.”

Democrats are determined to persuade voters to see it very differently. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Mr. Sanders shook through the highlights of the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package and provisions Democrats hope to build on with the new bill, including continuing Monthly payments for families with children. Backed by testimonies from local officials and residents about the needs the package could meet, he pledged to fight for the inclusion of key liberal priorities, including lowering prescription drug prices, providing free community college and funding programs to combat climate change.

“I thought it was important to bring the issues that we deal with to the people of America,” Sanders said in an interview.

In the case of Mr. Bennett, he underscores the domestic benefits of the hefty bill. In particular, the Senate Agriculture Committee is calling for $135 billion for a set of federal efforts, including “forest programs to help reduce carbon emissions and prevent wildfires.”

While Colorado has so far escaped its wildfire crisis this summer, last year has been a disaster, with heavy losses in both destroyed homes and overall economic damage. This year, devastating mudslides from multiple fire scars and runoff in burned areas have turned parts of the Colorado River and other waterways black.

And while Colorado may not see many fires this summer, smoke from fires elsewhere in the West has obscured the mountain views that drew many to Colorado in the first place, leaving Denver with some of the world’s worst air quality at times. .

Mr. Bennett, who will run for president next year, said the $60 billion currently spent on fighting the fires covers only direct costs and does not include other aspects, such as lost tourism and the effects of air pollution. He said agencies that are chronically understaffed and underfunded like the US Forest Service need to pump money into taking steps to reduce the risk of fires, rather than just fighting them as they happen.

“Our entire state is affected by the lack of federal investment in our forests,” he told his Clear Creek audience.

Local officials said they recognized the scale of the spending bill but the needs were huge, especially given the losses incurred by devastating fires, closed parks and disturbances such as mudslides that closed Interstate 70, the state’s main east-west highway, for parts. the summer.

“The scale of the problem has become enormous,” said Randall Willock, chair of the Clear Creek County Board of Commissioners, who said “billions and billions of dollars” of real estate are at risk from fires and climate change, along with the health of the state’s waterways and economy.

He said of the cost, “It’s a lot of money, but we’ve spent that kind of money before on things we care about.”

Mr. Bennett also took his plea to the more conservative part of the state in the sprawling Grand County, which straddles the continental divide. He met ranchers who experimented with ways to better protect the tormented Colorado River, which is vital to local agriculture, and to irrigate their pastures more efficiently. The plantation owners, though concerned about Mr. Bennett’s political affiliation, welcomed his interest in the river.

Bennett said that if Democrats can demonstrate the tangible benefits of the budget plan to people like them, it could help them make headway with the conservatives.

“Every farm downstream from these places will benefit from this,” he said, standing in a sunny field along the Colorado River outside the town of Krimling. “They may never vote for Joe Biden, but I think that gives Joe Biden the opportunity to come to these communities and say, ‘You weren’t invisible to me.'”

As for the total cost, Mr. Bennett doesn’t think that’s a significant obstacle to voters who see key needs in their communities.

“I think the average person cares a lot about what the money is being spent on,” he said. We have lived through 20 years of two wars in the Middle East that cost $5.6 trillion. Since 2001 we have cut taxes on the richest people in the country by nearly $5 trillion. Now, finally, we’re investing in the American people.”

Emily Cochran Reporting contributed from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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