Because of a handful of conservative Democrats and 100% of the Republicans in Congress, 62 million Medicare recipients will not be receiving help with their dental and vision needs this coming year.
Instead, 62 million kupuna, our parents and grandparents living in what is supposed to be their golden years, are being denied this little bit of extra help because 2 Democrats in the Senate and another 6 to 9 in the House, together with their Republican allies would rather protect the Elon Musk billionaires of the world.
This same unholy alliance between conservative “D’s” and Republicans have also managed to deny 4 million high school graduates the opportunity to attend a community college or trade school regardless of their ability to pay.
In theory, if the Democrats stuck together, there are sufficient votes to get the job done but unfortunately, that’s not the case (pun intended).
Yes, the cold hard truth is that passage of the Build Back Better bill has been repeatedly blocked, and provisions such as those cited above, repeatedly weakened by the actions of a small group of House and Senate conservatives Democrats including Hawai‘i Congressman Ed Case (CD1).
Not surprisingly, Rep. Kaiali‘i Kahele (CD2) who represents Kaua‘i and the neighbor-islands, and both Sen. Brian Schatz and Sen. Mazie Hirono are all enthusiastic supporters of the measure and have been fighting hard to keep it strong.
This is a critical week for President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. The House of Representatives is poised to pass this $1.75 trillion dollar measure, that while significantly weakened by this small conservative faction of Congressional Democrats – is still a potentially historic accomplishment.
What exactly is in it?
• Universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year olds.
• Capping childcare costs at 7% of income for parents earning up to 250% of a state’s median income.
• 4 weeks of federal paid parental, sick or caregiver leave.
• A one-year extension of the expanded Child Tax Credits which has cut child poverty in America by 25%.
• New hearing benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, including coverage for a new hearing aid every 5 years.
• A $35 per-month limit on the cost of insulin under Medicare, and capping out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 per year.
• Raising the state/local tax deduction limit from $10,000 to $80,000.
• $500 billion to combat climate change – The largest-ever federal investment in clean energy.
• $150 billion for affordable housing.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the bill by the end of this week and pass it over to the Senate. Whether or not this vote actually occurs is up to Congressman Ed Case and a handful of House conservatives.
Under the guise of being “fiscally conservative”, they are demanding proof that the proposal be “paid for” and will not increase the federal debt. Though President Biden and others have assured them that this will ultimately be the case, they continue to stall passage awaiting the “final reports” from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
It’s important to note that Case and the others did not make this same demand when approving the recently passed massive infrastructure bill, nor did they insist on this when approving military spending totaling $8 trillion over the same period.
There’s still a long way to go. After the House finally passes it over, the Senate will then likely make further changes and the sausage-making will continue.
If the Build Back Better bill is important to you – I encourage you to contact both Congressman Ed Case, and Congressman Kaiali‘i Kahele today.
Representative Ed Case
Kaiali‘i (Kai) Kahele
Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.