Biden’s Delicate Democrat Alliance of Centrists and Progressives Coming Unglued

Biden's Delicate Democrat Alliance of Centrists and Progressives Coming Unglued elizabeth warren speaks into mic in front of capitol Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol April 27, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By Brian Freeman | Wednesday, 12 May 2021 12:51 PM

The fragile alliance of centrist and leftwing Democrats who banded together to get Joe Biden elected president in 2020 is beginning to show signs of stress, as papered-over divides on issues such as taxes and infrastructure reemerge fewer than four months into Biden's tenure.

Spending issues central to Biden’s domestic agenda are at the center of the divide, including an argument over lifting a ceiling on the state and local tax deduction, which was capped at $10,000 by the Trump administration’s tax-cut bill in order to pay for decreases in corporate taxes, The Hill reported on Wednesday.

The ceiling particularly hit suburban districts represented by Democrats, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed last year that repealing the cap on SALT deductions would be a top priority if the party won control of the upper chamber.

But Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and other progressives contend that eliminating the cap would only help wealthy households.

A group of House Democrats from New York and New Jersey are drawing a line in the sand over the issue, warning they may not vote for Biden’s massive infrastructure package if it does not include a repeal of the SALT cap, according to The Hill.

The price tag of that infrastructure bill, however, is another source of contention between the warring factions. The bill is publicly projected to cost about $4.1 trillion — but could end up costing significantly more.

"It’s a lot of damn dough, it’s a lot of money," said Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who's typically viewed as a moderate Democrat and who represents a state easily won by former President Donald Trump last year.

Tester agrees that there is a need for infrastructure investment, but insists that Congress should pay for at least half the cost.

But that will be particularly difficult, especially if the SALT deduction cap is repealed, which means that congressmen will have to find hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue — just to cover the budget impact of that provision alone.

This concern over the cost pits moderates against progressives such as Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who want to make Biden’s infrastructure agenda even more expensive by lowering the Medicare eligibility age in the American Families Plan.

Warren also wants to add to the price tag by spending substantially more on universal child care.

But it's not just the domestic agenda — fissures are also opening in the party over foreign policy, especially amid the current flareup in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Some Democrats have already blamed the escalation in violence on an Israeli court's threat to evict Palestinians from homes in a Jerusalem neighborhood due to a property dispute.

According to The Hill, Warren has urged the Biden administration to "make clear to the Israeli government that these evictions are illegal and must stop immediately," adding that "this cycle of escalation will not end well for anyone if it stays on its current path. If America wants to be a good friend to both the Palestinians and Israelis, we need to help them de-escalate."

But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., pushed back, putting the onus on Hamas for indiscriminately firing massive barrages of hundreds of rockets into heavily populated areas of Israel.

The Biden administration has already called for de-escalation and progressive Democrats upset with the administration's handling of the situation now believe they'll have leverage when Biden nominates his ambassador to Israel, who will have to be Senate confirmed.

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