In case you missed it, last Friday, The Buffalo News published a piece highlighting President Biden’s American Families Plan which includes several of Senator Gillibrand’s top legislative priorities, including $225 billion for a permanent comprehensive national paid family and medical leave and $1.8 trillion in care infrastructure. Gillibrand, a leading advocate in the United States Senate on paid family and medical leave, has been fighting for these provisions for nearly a decade.
The full text of the piece can be found here and below:
Buffalo News: Biden families plan includes echoes of Gillibrand proposals
By Jerry Zremski
April 30, 2021
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand keeps a long legislative wish list – and in announcing his American Families Plan this week, President Biden checked four items off it.
Gillibrand proposed a similar “Family Bill of Rights” during her presidential campaign two years ago. And like Biden’s $1.8 trillion plan to boost the social safety net, Gillibrand’s effort included 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, a federal boost to child care and universal pre-K. Gillibrand also introduced a bill aimed at extending the federal school lunch program into the summer – another idea that Biden included in his plan.
Not surprisingly, Gillibrand is pretty happy about Biden’s effort.
”Those are things that I’ve been fighting for for at least 10 years,” Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, said Thursday. “And it’s meaningful because when a president lifts it up in a State of the Union or his first address to Congress, it motivates more allies to come forward to support these ideas. It will become a national narrative.”
Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, is pleased with Biden’s effort, too – even though it excluded his proposal to make people as young as 50 eligible for Medicare, the federal health care plan for seniors.
Republicans, meanwhile, look at the American Families Plan as Biden’s socialism plan. They say it would run up a huge bill while reordering American society to put government at the center of people’s lives.
”Our best future will not come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams,” said Sen. Tim Scott, the South Carolina Republican who delivered the GOP rebuttal to Biden’s speech to Congress Wednesday night.
To Gillibrand, though, Biden’s plan makes perfect sense. She’s long argued that America shouldn’t be among the few developed countries that doesn’t have a paid family and medical leave plan or a strong federal child care effort. And she thinks those proposals should be combined in one big bill with Biden’s earlier American Jobs Plan, his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal.
”When you talk about infrastructure, you need to talk about all infrastructure: the hard infrastructure of roads, bridges, cyber, rural broadband, all the things that people need to get to work,” Gillibrand said. “But you also need the soft infrastructure – the infrastructure around workers that is necessary for them to go to work. You can’t get to work if you don’t have child care or affordable day care. You can’t stay employed if you can’t have paid leave during a family emergency.”
Higgins takes a similar view of Biden’s plan.
”It’s an investment in human infrastructure,” he said. “And it’s designed to help people become what they want to become, which is economically independent and self-sufficient.”
The Biden plan also includes $109 billion to pay for two years of community college; $85 billion in additional funds for college Pell grants; unemployment insurance reform; and an extension of the expanded child tax credit that, according to Higgins, will benefit nearly 400,000 children in Western New York and dramatically reduce child poverty.
However, Biden left out of the bill one of Higgins’ top legislative priorities: a proposal, also backed by Gillibrand, that would give Americans as young as 50 the option of buying into Medicare.
Higgins didn’t seem too concerned about the omission.
”If it’s not in this bill, it will be in at a later date,” Higgins said.
That seems possible because Higgins and Gillibrand are by no means the only Democrats pushing for the provision to be included. About 100 lawmakers from both sides of Capitol Hill – including Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist from Vermont – Thursday said they were sending Biden a letter asking him to add the Medicare buy-in to his plan. In addition, the lawmakers suggest expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing services. They also advocate allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
The disagreement among Democrats about Medicare is nothing, though, compared with the vitriolic opposition Biden’s plan faces from Republicans.
Neither of Western New York’s two Republican House members – Rep. Chris Jacobs of Orchard Park and Rep. Tom Reed of Corning – made themselves available for interviews about the Biden plan, nor did they release any statements about it.
But other New York Republicans voiced concerns strong concerns.
“After authorizing nearly $2 trillion in new spending last month, tonight President Biden proposed trillions of dollars in additional spending,” Rep. John Katko of the Syracuse area said in a statement Wednesday. “This unprecedented sum would require trillions of dollars in taxes and borrowing, passing yet another financial liability to future generations.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Elise Stefanik, whose district covers the North Country, said: “President Biden’s joint address to Congress continued his empty inaugural promise of bipartisanship. The truth is, in his first 100 days, President Biden has outreached more to China and Iran than Republicans, and he has alienated half of the country by governing as the most far-left president in American history.”
Senate Republicans issued similar statements, which is an indication that if Democrats want to pass Biden’s families plan, the Senate may have to try to do so under an arcane process called reconciliation, which would prevent the Republican Senate minority from blocking the measure via a filibuster.
Even doing that could be difficult, given that the Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans and that the most conservative Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said he is “uncomfortable” with the cost of Biden’s plan.
But the man who will shepherd Biden’s proposal through the Senate – Democratic Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York – seemed eager to do just that.
”President Biden proposed investments and policies that will provide a pathway to success for people across this country – helping families and workers succeed in a 21st Century economy,” Schumer said on Twitter. “This Senate will take up big, bold legislation to make President Biden’s vision a reality.”