Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal praised President Biden’s proposed expansion of the social safety net, but the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee won’t commit on how to pay for it.
The western Massachusetts Democrat says Biden made a strong case for his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan during the president’s first address to a joint session of Congress.
"The speech he gave last night was..Joe Biden," Neal said. "No malice, no hectoring, nothing he has to walk back today."
Speaking with reporters at his Springfield office Thursday, Neal demurred when asked if he agreed with Biden’s plan to pay for the new programs by rolling back Trump-era tax cuts, closing loopholes and going after tax cheats.
"If you volunteer at this juncture a revenue source, it simply allows the opposition to mount," said Neal. "Lets lay the plan out and then have the conversation about how are we going to pay for it."
This is the third major piece of legislation Biden has offered up in his first 100 days in office. Already passed – with no Republican support – is the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. Last month he proposed a $2.3 trillion bill to modernize infrastructure, combat climate change, and create jobs.
Among the provisions in the American Families Plan, Neal is particularly keen to see the child care tax credits that were part of the COVID relief bill made permanent and he believes there can be bipartisan support for it.
" I am going to try hard to get Republicans to support this," Neal said.
The president’s proposal lines up in many areas with a bill announced by Neal earlier this this week. Both would create a paid family and medical leave program.
Biden’s plan includes an expansion of public education to include universal preschool and making community colleges free.
" I am a big believer in community colleges," Neal said. "I think some experimenting with community colleges makes a good deal of sense."
Neal said when the Ways and Means Committee holds hearings on Biden’s infrastructure bill he will likely include witnesses from labor unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"I don't know anybody who doesn't think America doesn't need substantial investment in infrastructure." Neal said.
He said his goal is to report out a bill from the committee by July 4th and have the full House vote on it before the August recess.
Neal was one of only about 200 people present in the House chamber for Biden’s address because of COVID-19 restrictions. After the speech, Neal and Biden spoke briefly.
"It was good natured and in good humor," Neal said. "I won't tell you anymore than that but it was very refreshing."
Public opinion polls show there is strong support for both the American Families Plan and the infrastructure bill.