During an interview Wednesday, Fox News host Bill Hemmer tried to nail down U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan about his negotiation flexibility as Democrats try to reach an agreement on the details of their $3.5 trillion social spending reconciliation bill.
Hemmer raised the issue of the additional inflationary pressure it might cause and also wanted to know if the chair emeritus of the House Progressive Caucus considered himself a capitalist or a socialist.
The America’s Newsroom host began the discussion by noting that President Joe Biden is willing to reduce the appropriation to around $2 trillion to get a deal done.
“We have a trillion questions,” Hemmer joked to the Wisconsin Democrat. “You got a long, long list. What are you willing to leave on the table and give up, sir?”
(Video: Fox News)
“Well, I think the conversation we had yesterday with the president was that our priorities are to keep as many of his priorities in the Build Back Better agenda and maybe do them for a slightly shorter amount of time just to get them started to see if they’re gonna work well for the American people and then make sure they are immediate,” Pocan, who represents a very liberal district in the Madison area, replied.
The key is for the “American people will see some benefits as quickly as possible as we’re getting out of the COVID era. So we were very happy to hear that is also the president’s strategy. We want to make sure the American people benefit. And I think at the end of the day that’s what the bill’s gonna show,” Rep. Pocan added.
Under the parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation, the Democrats can pass the bill with a straight majority in both congressional chambers which they narrowly control, thereby avoiding a GOP filibuster.
“You would be willing to concede fewer years for these programs to get them into law, and we have seen when these programs are in the law they are hard to extract. Is that the clear strategy you have today?” Hemmer wondered.
Pocan then drew a comparison to Social Security (although the 1935 law enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress).
“Well, I think it’s very similar to when Social Security came out — many of the same arguments you heard against Social Security when it was created. Now we see that’s one of the most popular programs the federal government offers. So I think that’s really the approach we have because we know that the child tax cut that 40 million American families are getting right now, which will be extended because of the Build Back Better agenda, is a tax cut for working people.
“And then you look at the last administration, the tax cut they had 86% of the money went to the top 1%. This is a benefit that real people are getting and are gonna see and they’re also gonna have cost savings on things like childcare and prescription drug prices and expanded Medicare benefits. These are all real wins for the American people,” the congressman claimed.
Hemmer also asked why it made sense to “pump trillions of more dollars out of Washington into the economy especially now” with inflation on the rise.
“A lot more people can hurt with inflation. You know the trap that comes with that type of economics now. Do you consider yourself a capitalist or a socialist?” Hemmer asked.
“I’ve been a small business owner for 33 years, so you tell me,” Pocan responded, adding that he is “pretty good at understanding capitalism” and a better grasp of it than many Republicans in Congress.
Hemmer then pointed out that under the reconciliation bill, some Americans will get taxed at 60 percent of their gross income. Pocan insisted that while the final bill hasn’t even been written yet, “what Joe Biden has said is people who make more than $400,000 and corporations that haven’t paid their fair share…often who hide their profits overseas, they’re the ones gonna pay it…”
“At the end of the day, the real benefit to the American people will be a tax cut for 40 million American families via the child tax break. There will be lower costs in prescription drugs and childcare and Medicare and other care for their family members, will create millions of jobs, many of which will tackle climate change, and it is paid for…there is no cost to the average person.”
During the discussion, Hemmer’s colleague Dana Perino noted that President Biden has lost much of his leverage owing to substantially declining poll numbers and thus has a lot less political capital to spend.
She went on to chide Pocan for apparently mocking Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, when she previously said that he was waiting for “half of Manchinema” to “show us something other than a designer purse.”
“You think that’s a way to get Kyrsten Sinema to come to the table and accept some of these ideas?” she asked.
Pocan replied his comment was taken out of context and that “What I was getting at is Joe Manchin is negotiating like a legislator is supposed to negotiate. I may not agree with him on everything but we’ll get to the deal but we’ll get to a deal at the end of the day with him. We could use more of that in public from Senator Sinema because I know her values but we need to see it on the table. You can’t negotiate if someone doesn’t put on the table what they’re for.”
“We’re gonna get this bill done at the end of the day because it’s so important for the American people, and I think Senator Sinema and Manchin will ultimately be there,” Rep. Pocan predicted.
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