Even as the oft-touted concept of free college is dropped from the grab bag of programs congressional Democrats are trying to pass, one top Democratic senator admits that his party has mismanaged expectations on the bill.
“I don’t doubt that one bit, and I think [it’s] our fault,” Democratic Majority Whip Dick Durbin said, according to Politico, which called his comments “unusual candor for a party leader.”
“We oversold it and underperformed for too long. Now, we get a chance to close it the right way, hopefully,” he said.
Durbin noted that with the 2022 elections on the horizon, there is a real reason to be squeamish.
He said he was “always worried about off-year elections in the president’s party. History tells you it’s a real challenge.”
Durbin said he thought that what is left in what started out as a $3.5 trillion bill of progressive priorities will still resonate with the American people.
“Lucky for us, some of these ideas are really popular, and I think that when the American people see that we’ve actually done something, it will help us,” he said.
One idea that is being dropped is a proposal to create free community college, according to The New York Times.
The Times, citing as its sources “two people who were familiar with the discussion” but who the outlet did not name, said the decision came during a Tuesday meeting during which Biden said the final price tag for his proposal could be between $1.75 trillion and $2 trillion over 10 years.
The report said that one way Biden wants to reduce the cost of the bill was to limit monthly child tax credit payments that Democrats wanted to make permanent, making these payments only available for a one-year extension that could then be annually extended in the future.
Extending any benefits created this year would require Democrats to be able to maintain their control of Congress. Heading into 2022, that is hardly a given.
House Republicans only need to flip five seats to regain control of that chamber. The Senate is currently split 50-50, with the Democrats in the majority only because Vice President Kamala Harris can serve as the tie-breaking vote. And, as Durbin said, mid-term elections have historically meant the party that holds the White House loses seats in Congress.
Republicans are talking up the possibilities of 2022, based upon the retirements of long-time Democrats, according to The New York Times.
“These Democrats spent decades accumulating power and seniority in Congress. They wouldn’t give up that power if they felt Democrats were going to hold the majority,” said Mike Berg, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, who announced on Monday he will step down after 27 years in the House, said Democratic infighting has become too intense for his taste.
“That’s the danger I see for our party, these absolute positions emerging,” Doyle said. “It used to be you fought those fights in caucus, but when the caucus made a majority opinion, you moved forward.”
Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky noted that given the partisan polarization, “the prospect of serving in the minority is horrifying.”