In the United States, the vote on President Joe Biden’s “historic” investment plan has been postponed again in the US Congress. Biden wants to invest billions in social and green policies but has not yet succeeded in convincing Congress. As a result, he has now landed in Italy, somewhat empty-handed.
For months, US President Biden has been trying to get his “Build Back Better” plans to invest in social and green policies through Congress, but each time he encounters opposition within his own party. Yesterday he proposed a compromise, but that slimmed-down reform plan has also been shelved.
President Biden landed in Italy last night for a meeting of the G20, the twenty richest industrialized countries, before heading to the climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. “Biden had postponed his departure to Europe to go to Congress in person. He had hoped that his party colleagues would approve the infrastructure plan anyway so as not to leave empty-handed, to show the international community that he can get things done,” says US correspondent Björn Soenens in De Morgen on Radio1. “Biden would have preferred otherwise, but if both plans are approved next week, then the spoils are in, and he is a great reformer. If it doesn’t work out, his presidency has already failed.”
The original, massive $3,500 billion recovery plan has been halved to $1,750 billion. Proposals to introduce paid parental leave and free evening classes have fallen through. Environmental taxes for companies and a tax for billionaires (to fund the plan) will not be forthcoming. “A lot has disappeared, but there is still a lot left,” says Björn Soenens. “Kindergarten education up to the age of 6 will be free, and there will be 1 million affordable homes, child benefits will be extended… there is still enough in that social safety net to be a historic recovery plan if it is approved.”
“After months of intense negotiations, we have a framework for the proposal that I believe can make it,” President Biden announced on Twitter yesterday. “The mistake is to think that that framework would immediately be voted on,” Soenens explains. “The House of Representatives was expected to vote on the infrastructure plan, a second $1,200 billion plan to repair bridges, roads and corroded water pipes and install internet. That plan has already been given the green light in the Senate. But the progressive Democrats want the social plan to be put into law; first, they’re playing it safe, refusing to rush through the infrastructure plan and then risking their social reforms screwed up.”
But the American president will not arrive utterly empty-handed at the climate summit in Glasgow. Björn Soenens: “President Biden wants to allocate 550 billion dollars for environmental measures. Companies that do their best to reduce CO2 emissions will receive bonuses. In addition, the US wants to install half a million charging stations for electric cars, and there will be subsidies for solar panels. In California, “In fact, it is already mandatory for every new house to install solar panels. With those reforms Biden wants to unpack in Glasgow, he can’t lecture other countries about climate while the US itself can’t put anything on the table.”