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Schumer and Pelosi

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—seen here speaking outside the outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on June 14, 2021—say they are working rapidly toward completion and passage of the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

'Step Up and Do the Right Thing': Groups Urge Congress to Pass Build Back Better Bill

"Now is not the time to let deep-pocketed corporate lobbyists stand in the way of vital public investments in an economy that works for all of us."

Brett Wilkins

In the face of a massive corporate lobbying blitz and continuing opposition from Republican and right-wing Democratic U.S. lawmakers to President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan, 93 advocacy groups on Thursday sent a letter to Congress urging members to "stand up to this pressure" and pass the ambitious $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package.

"One of the biggest indications that President Biden's Build Back Better plan would provide transformative change to working families is that corporations are spending millions to try to defeat it."
—Heidi Shierholz, EPI

The letter, led by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), notes that "lobby groups representing the wealthy and big corporations—including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, ExxonMobil, and Pfizer—are spending tens of millions of dollars to attack the most transformative and equitable budget proposal in a generation."

The letter's signatories urge Congress to pass the legislative package—now undergoing bicameral negotiations—by the end of September, calling its policies and investments a "down payment on the needs of our communities" that "begins to meet the full scale of our country's climate, poverty, and inequality emergencies" while reforming "a tax system rigged in favor of the wealthy and large corporations."

Enumerating the bill's robust provisions to combat the climate crisis, alleviate poverty, expand healthcare and education, and improve the nation's infrastructure, the letter argues that "such investments would be a major boost to all working families, but especially to the tens of millions of poor and low-income people—disproportionately people of color—who have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic and recession and have not yet recovered."

Addressing members of Congress who balk at the bill's high price tag, the signers assert that "Congress can easily raise more than $3.5 trillion in revenue from corporations and the wealthy who have seen their profits and net worth skyrocket for decades."

"The wealth of the country's 708 billionaires alone rose by $1.8 trillion, or 62%, during the pandemic," they write, "enough to pay for half of the 10-year cost of the $3.5 trillion package."

The letter continues:

A robust Build Back Better plan is supported by three out of four voters. The passage of this plan would be an important move toward addressing the interlocking crises of poverty, inequality, climate change, and racism. Ultimately, our nation needs a Third Reconstruction [pdf] to provide living wages, strengthen our democracy, curb violence and militarism in our communities, and prioritize the millions of poor and low-income people in the country and their needs.

"To advance toward that goal, Congress must step up and do the right thing and live up to its constitutional and moral commitments to establish justice and the general welfare," the signers conclude. "Now is not the time to let deep-pocketed corporate lobbyists stand in the way of vital public investments in an economy that works for all of us."

"It is outrageous that hundreds of giant U.S. corporations are trying to slash taxes on themselves to undermine the most important piece of legislation for children, working people, and climate in our lifetimes."
—John Cavanagh, IPS

EPI president Heidi Shierholz said in a statement that "one of the biggest indications that President Biden's Build Back Better plan would provide transformative change to working families is that corporations are spending millions to try to defeat it. Congress must stand up to the pressure and pass these vital investments in child care, home healthcare, climate, and more."

IPS senior adviser John Cavanagh added that "after a year of record billionaire wealth and corporate profits, it is outrageous that hundreds of giant U.S. corporations are trying to slash taxes on themselves to undermine the most important piece of legislation for children, working people, and climate in our lifetimes."

The letter's publication comes as House Democrats rush to complete drafts and markups on the bill ahead of the September 15 Budget Committee deadline set by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said Wednesday that lawmakers and their staffs are "working feverishly and diligently," and "will be ready to fulfill the president's vision."

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that Democrats in the upper chamber are "moving full speed ahead" with the reconciliation package, despite reporting that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—who wields outsized power given the evenly split Senate—is only willing to support up to $1.5 trillion in spending.


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