Congress has authorized spending of up to $3.5 trillion over a ten-year period. But Biden is urging Democrats to fully pay the bill by increasing taxes on corporations and the rich, negotiating the price for prescription drugs, and dialing up other sources such as the increased IRS funding.
The idea is that the entire package should be able to pay for itself.
Democrats want to stop a deficit-financed spending spree by defending a bill that is not yet complete. They are becoming frustrated at the attention being paid to the $3.5 trillion in spending, while arguing that far too little is being done to balance the books. Biden said Friday that he prefers the price tag to be described as "zero."
Biden stated at the White House that "We pay for all we spend." It's going to zero. Zero."
The revenue side of this equation is difficult and has emerged as a major challenge for Democratic bargainers, who are trying to build one of the most significant legislative efforts in a generation. The success or failure of these negotiations could determine whether Biden's entire agenda is passed and can withstand any political attacks.
Republicans are not waiting for details, even though they have joined the opposition. They have shifted their attention to the $3.5 trillion spending limit set by Democrats and are now praising that amount as fiscally reckless, misguided, and big government at its worst.
"The radical left wants to push in all their chips -- They want to use this terrible, but temporary pandemic for permanent socialism," said Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky senator. "Trillions upon trillions of dollars more in government spending while families are already experiencing inflation."
The lack of consensus on which programs and how long to fund is a major problem for Democratic leaders. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) acknowledge that the price will likely fall and have a list of revenue-raisers to help pay for it. However, it is impossible to make final decisions without knowing which initiatives will be included.
Pelosi stated Thursday that "it is not about the price tag." "This is all about what's in your bill."
Biden and officials from the administration stress that the plan is more about fairness than dollars and cents. They plan to tax the rich and corporations in order to provide paid family leave and child credits for those who are striving for the middle class. At the same time, they will adopt economic and environmental policies that improve the U.S.'s ability to compete with China. The haggling over the final spending target is distracting from the policy goals they want to achieve.