Progressives Vow to Push Back Against Watered-Down Social Spending Bill

Progressive Democrats have vowed to push back against the possible removal of popular measures from President Joe Biden's social spending package.

It comes after Politico reported on Friday that congressional Democrats are "watering down" and could drop a plan to directly negotiate some Medicare drug prices in order to agree to a deal with moderate lawmakers.

The following day, the outlet further reported that Democrats are also considering axing the plan to add dental, hearing, and vision benefits to Medicare along with guaranteed paid family leave after Sen. Joe Manchin said he would support the bill if its price tag was slashed to $1.5 trillion.

Medicare should cover your eyes, ears, and teeth. It’s that simple.

It’s time to finally expand Medicare and guarantee seniors FULL coverage.

— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) October 26, 2021

Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), indicated on Monday that progressives would push to retain those provisions. "Medicare should cover your eyes, ears, and teeth. It's that simple," she tweeted. "It's time to finally expand Medicare and guarantee seniors FULL coverage."

In another tweet, she added: "It is way overdue that we invest in working families by investing in paid leave. It's time to Build Back Better and get this done."

The expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision is one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire reconciliation bill. It’s what the American people want. It’s not coming out.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 24, 2021

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont also hit back at reports that Medicare expansion could be stripped from the package over the weekend, tweeting: "The expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision is one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire reconciliation bill. It's what the American people want. It's not coming out."

Rep. Ro Khanna of California echoed that sentiment in an interview on Democracy Now! on Monday. "We will push very hard to make sure it stays in," he said. "The details are being negotiated, but I know that this is a top priority for the senator, and it's a top priority for House progressives."

Progressives will also fight to include guaranteed paid family leave, Khanna added. "Four weeks is absurd," he said. "We're saying do the 12 weeks, do what every other wealthy democracy and wealthy nation does."

Earlier in October, The New York Times reported that the Biden administration was ready to drop the proposed clean electricity program from the package to secure the backing of Manchin, of coal-rich West Virginia.

Let’s be clear: votes need to be earned.

Progressives are fighting to tackle the climate crisis, expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing, and guarantee family leave in America.

These are the investments major countries make in their communities and we can too.

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 25, 2021

But Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota on Monday indicated that the bill could lose the backing of progressives if too much was cut.

"Let's be clear: votes need to be earned," Omar wrote on Twitter.

"Progressives are fighting to tackle the climate crisis, expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing, and guarantee family leave in America," she added. "These are the investments major countries make in their communities and we can too."

The Congressional Progressive Caucus and the White House have been contacted for comment.

Rep. Katherine Clark hugs Rep. Pramila Jayapal
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) (L) hugs Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) as a group of progressive lawmakers takes a group photo following a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on October 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images