“The idea is that these initiatives get a good foothold in this legislation and we can expand them,” said Maryland Democrat Senator Chris Van Hollen. “Take the children’s discount. It’s only been in effect for a few months now, it’s already making a huge difference and is hugely popular.”
Democrats have argued for months that Americans will embrace the safety net proposals and other provisions of the legislation once they realize what’s in it for them. They say Democrat infighting, Republican attacks and focus on the procedural battles have obscured the popular aspects of the measure, explaining recent polls that have shown most Americans don’t know what’s in the package. Also obscuring the picture for voters, the Democrats have yet to produce a final version of the legislation due to differences in cost and scope.
“I’ve long felt that when they see the changes and reforms that really matter in their kitchens and in their living rooms, it changes the DC debate dramatically,” said Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden and the chairman of the United States Congress. finance committee. .
Republicans have also benefited from legislators’ reluctance to roll back popular policies that were initially temporary, such as the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. They were eventually extended despite deep democratic opposition and years of tax struggles, because enough members of Congress were reluctant to be charged with raising taxes.
Given that they have fallen short in their years-long drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are also realizing that it will be extremely difficult and politically risky to allow Democrats to realize safety net programs for even a relatively short period of time. .
But the legislative dynamics will be different if the safety net programs are put in place for a period of time. In the case of the health law, which was a permanent policy change, Republicans had to rally the votes to repeal it and failed repeatedly. With the programs in the budget bill, if Congress didn’t act, they would just expire, leaving the responsibility on Democrats to find the votes to renew them.
One of the rare social support programs to be repealed was the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988, at the end of the Reagan administration, with broad bipartisan support. It was withdrawn a year later, in a shockingly rapid reversal.