Opinion: Democrats start to forge specifics of huge social plan

After tamping down an internal revolt this past week over the timing of a final vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, U.S. House Democrats now have to come up with the details of a massive $3.5 trillion tax and spending measure supported by President Joe Biden.

It won’t be easy.

The goals are a laundry list of campaign applause lines, like cutting the cost of prescription drugs, middle-class tax relief, two years of free community college, extending a child tax credit, and much more — depending on how Democrats write the bill in coming weeks.

The White House has been very clear on how it should be paid for.

“We can ask corporations and the very wealthy just to pay their fair share,” President Biden said Tuesday.

Importantly, no one making under $400,000 will see their taxes increase,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, echoing a familiar Biden promise.

But the tax details could get a little tricky.

For example, U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, has already joined some Democrats in giving the thumbs down to one White House plan on federal estate taxes, dealing with the ‘stepped-up basis’ of an inheritance – like a family farm.

“Any increase in inheritance tax for those taking over farmland is untenable,” Scott wrote in a June letter to President Biden.

As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Scott will be in charge of writing part of the reconciliation bill — likely focusing on rural development, clean energy, wildfires, and child nutrition.

Other than Scott, Georgia Democrats won’t have much of a direct hand in forging the final details of what the President calls his ‘Build Back Better’ agenda. For example, there are no state Democrats on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which will write the tax provisions to pay for this package.

Unlike a bipartisan infrastructure bill — which netted the support of 19 GOP Senators — there will be no Republicans voting for this Democratic plan, as Georgia Republicans have been shouting their opposition from the rooftops.

“The Democrats’ tax-and-spend spree is burdening our economy and harming American families,” said U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton.

“Their priorities are misguided and fiscally irresponsible,” said U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens.

“Every single American deserves better,” said U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point.

The roles are flipped from 2017 when Republicans used this same budget reconciliation process — which cannot be stopped by a filibuster in the U.S. Senate — to approve a tax cut package backed by Donald Trump.

With very narrow majorities, Democrats have a difficult balancing act ahead — as we saw on infrastructure in recent days.

It’s a big moment for President Biden’s agenda. We’ll see if Congressional Democrats are up to the task over the next month.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com