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Democrats cave to more Manchin demands. They agree to cut paid family leave from Biden's bill.
Progressives hold the line. Refuse to back a stripped-down bill.
Democrats have agreed, under pressure from the far right-wing of their party, to cut paid family and medical leave from Biden’s infrastructure bill. They’ve also agreed to drop from the current bill two years of free community college, and other key provisions that progressives have long fought for.
This leaves little doubt that wealthy West Virginia coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin is now calling the shots for the party, despite representing a tiny political base. Remember, family leave is supported by 80% of Americans.
Manchin’s anti-working class treachery is nothing new. He’s always been a frontman for the most reactionary sector of capitalism’s ruling class. He’s the U.S. senator who’s received the most money in political donations from the oil, gas, and coal industries.
Manchin was an early member of ALEC, the powerful right-wing group that laid the foundation for thousands of laws passed by state legislatures weakening labor unions, privatizing public education, restricting voting rights, and blocking environmental regulations.
But Manchin’s ascendance as a top-dog policy shaper is not just based on his political skill and opportunism. It reveals the weak party leadership of Biden and Pelosi and their misdirected center-right political strategy aimed at defeating and isolating party progressives. It’s a strategy that could spell disaster in ‘22 and beyond if Democrats aren’t able to deliver on their promised social/economic/environmental reforms.
Biden was making concession after concession to the right in hopes of closing the deal in time to leave for Europe to attend the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow with a political victory on climate control in hand.
But the sellout by the party leadership on family leave was the last straw for the Progressive Caucus who’s now flexing its muscles by maintaining that they will not vote for the infrastructure bill without the Build Back Better Act. Pelosi insists Democrats are “on a path to get this all done,” but progressive congresswoman Cori Bush says at least a dozen members of her caucus will not support the infrastructure bill until the reconciliation package advances as well.
Given Democrats’ extremely narrow majority in the House, progressives have the votes to block the infrastructure bill until the reconciliation package advances. But the question remains if they’re willing to use their power the way Manchin has.
Here’s hoping they hang tough.
Rep. Rashida Talib tweets:
Paid Family Leave would add a half-trillion-dollar boost to a pandemic-battered economy.
One great irony in all this is that many corporate interests favor paid family leave and see it narrowly as a post-pandemic economic recovery booster shot in the face of severe worker shortages. More than 2.3 million women have stopped looking for work during the pandemic, a disproportionate number of them women of color.
In the past few years, some of the largest and wealthiest corporations in the U.S. have expanded existing paid leave policies to four or maybe six months. At Netflix, new mothers and fathers can take off an entire year. Meanwhile, in the past six years, the percentage of low-wage workers with access to paid leave has merely inched up, from 4% to 5%.
The gulf between the haves and the have-nots became acutely obvious last year when schools and daycare facilities closed, forcing millions of working parents to choose between their children and a paycheck.
In case anybody says, “Great, but how do we pay for it?
A 2019 analysis from S&P Global found that if the U.S. had a female labor force participation rate equal to its peer countries, $511 billion would be added to the economy within a decade—and that was before the pandemic pushed millions of women out of the workforce, effectively costing the economy billions more.
Within hours of this posting came news that progressives wouldn’t agree to an immediate vote on a separate $1 trillion infrastructure bill without strong assurances that their counterpart bill would be passed. Biden had to leave for Europe, the COP26 Summit, and his scheduled meeting with the Pope, empty-handed.