I asked more than a dozen Democratic members of Congress yesterday to help me make sense of a gap that, at least on the surface, seems nearly unbridgeable-- the $10 trillion THRIVE Act and Biden's skimpy $2 trillion American Jobs Act. Almost no one wanted to comment, especially not on the record.
Major THRIVE Act advocate Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) had already sent out a statement that said, in part, that "While President Biden’s proposal is a welcome first step, more must be done to improve on this initial framework to meet the challenges we face. We are still emerging from a deadly pandemic that has killed half a million Americans and plunged millions more into poverty, joblessness, and food insecurity. It is imperative that we act on a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use our governing majorities and build on the success of the landmark $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to enact the transformational policies that we were voted into office to deliver. To that end, we believe this package can and should be substantially larger in size and scope. During his campaign, President Biden committed to a ‘$2 trillion accelerated investment’ over four years on climate-focused infrastructure alone, which would set America on ‘an irreversible course to meet the ambitious climate progress that science demands.’ Today’s proposal, which includes many other priorities such as care jobs, will invest half that amount-- roughly $2 trillion over eight years-- or 1 percent of GDP. Given the President’s fierce resolve in passing the overwhelmingly popular American Rescue Plan earlier this month, it makes little sense to narrow his previous ambition on infrastructure or compromise with the physical realities of climate change... We believe that our country is ready for an even bolder, more comprehensive and integrated plan that demonstrates the size, scope, and speed required to aggressively slash carbon pollution and avoid climate catastrophe; create millions of good, family-sustaining, union jobs; improve Americans’ health and safety; reduce racial and gender disparities; and curb income inequality by making the wealthy and large corporations finally pay their fair share in taxes. The Progressive Caucus looks forward to engaging with the White House and Congressional leadership to make all the economic and social investments that we need-- with or without Republican votes-- and before Congress leaves for August recess. We must act urgently to develop and pass a package that rises to the unprecedented challenges we face as a country."
This morning, though, Los Angeles Congressman Ted Lieu got back to me. When Ted was still a California state senator he explained the reasons to me that he was going to run for Congress. First and foremost was the climate crisis, a term that hadn't be coined yet. No one would have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that he is a co-sponsor of the THRIVE Act. He's also an enthusiastic backer of Biden's initiatives.
"I'm so old," he told me today, that "I remember when my $2 trillion infrastructure proposal was derided as 'unrealistic' by some of my colleagues . . . and even some progressive activists. Politics is the art of the possible-- and what seemed impossible just a few years ago now appears very much within reach. I don't think the American Jobs Act and the THRIVE Act resolution are mutually exclusive. I support the THRIVE Act because I think our nation needs to address the multiple crises we face: climate change, crumbling infrastructure, a deadly global pandemic, racial injustice and economic inequality. If the American Jobs Act can help to address some of these issues right away-- which I think it will-- then I will support it. If we pass the American Jobs Act there is nothing stopping us from passing future legislation to make further investments to continue to address these pressing issues. I also think it is important to stop and think about how far we have come. Not that we should rest on our laurels, but this time last year we had a president who refused to even acknowledge the severity of the public health crisis we were in. We were busy begging him to do simple things like encourage Americans to wear a mask; we were light years from thinking about a large rescue package or now a large infrastructure investment. Leadership matters and it is nice to finally have some adults in the room."
A few minutes after Lieu said that, the Bureau of Labor statistics released the March employment report which was great news for Biden, his supporters and, for the country-- over 900,000 new jobs last month and a drop in unemployment from 6.2% to 6%. The number was way beyond expectation and way beyond the 379,000 new jobs added in February. The vaccination program and the rapid implementation of Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-Relief plan-- which every single Republican voted against... every single one of these champions of bipartisanship-- sure seems to be having the desired impact.
This is what Wall Street Journal readers-- mostly Republicans?-- woke up to: "Hiring accelerated last month to the best pace since August, signaling a stronger rebound is under way that could deliver jobs to the industries, regions and workers hardest hit during the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. employers added a seasonally adjusted 916,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said Friday. The gain affirms an accelerating employment trend after a winter stall and could be the start of a prolonged stretch of strong job creation... The jobs rebound is gaining renewed momentum as more people are vaccinated against Covid-19, states lift restrictions on business activity, and consumers grow more comfortable dining, shopping and traveling outside their homes.
The Journal, not to mention the less right-wing media, painted a picture of a public feeling renewed confidence now that Trump's incompetent and self-serving fat fingers have been removed from the levers of power. Beth Ann Bovino, a Ph.D. economist at S&P Global: "Fear is subsiding."
If people need something to fear, though, how about Senator Bipartisanship himself, Mitch "I Am The Grim Reaper" McTurtle who told a crowd of his supporters in Owensboro, Kentucky yesterday that "I’m going to fight them every step of the way, because I think this is the wrong prescription for America. That package that they’re putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side."