US urges Vladimir Putin to ‘build back better,’ not invade Ukraine

US urges Vladimir Putin to 'build back better,' not invade Ukraine

Hours after the Biden administration admitted that its own Build Back Better plan won’t pass Congress this year, it urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to “build back better” in his own country rather than threaten aggression against Ukraine.

A senior Biden administration official even told reporters during a State Department-organized briefing call Friday that polling in Russia shows support for policies that President Biden has struggled to get across the finish line in the US.

“The Russian people don’t need a war with Ukraine. They don’t need their sons coming home in body bags. They don’t need another foreign adventure,” the official said.

“What they need is better health care, build back better, roads, schools, economic opportunity. And that’s what the polling is showing in Russia. So we hope that President Putin will take this opportunity for diplomacy and will also listen to the needs of his own people.”

President Joe Biden speaks during a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
President Biden’s Build Back Better reportedly will not pass Congress this year.
AP / Evan Vucci

The Russian embassy in DC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The policy recommendations for Moscow follow the White House’s admission Friday morning that Biden’s sweeping $2 trillion social and environmental spending bill won’t pass ahead of the holidays due to the qualms of centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Manchin has said he fears the legislation’s effect on inflation, which hit a 39-year high in November.

“The president wants to see this move forward — I think you saw in his statement — early next year,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One.

Sen. Joe Manchin walks to a caucus lunch at the Capitol.
Senator Joe Manchin has expressed concern that the bill will worsen inflation, which hit a 39-year-high last month.
AP / J. Scott Applewhite

In a Thursday evening statement, Biden said that Manchin “has reiterated his support for Build Back Better funding at the level of the framework plan I announced in September. I believe that we will bridge our differences and advance the Build Back Better plan, even in the face of fierce Republican opposition.”

Biden in September rolled out a “framework” that would cost $1.75 trillion, offset by $1.995 trillion in new revenue through new taxes and increased IRS enforcement.

The House passed the package last month with a $2.2 trillion price tag, but if it passes the Senate it’s expected to shrink in size due to resistance from Manchin and fellow centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

Manchin says he’s concerned that “gimmicks” have lowered the true cost of the package — as costs are spread over fewer years than revenue streams.

The Congressional Budget Office last week said the Build Back Better Act would cost about $4.5 trillion — and add $3 trillion to the federal deficit — if its programs are extended over 10 years, or the same period as proposed revenue streams.

Biden’s spending package would be one of the largest in US history and conservatives say it would move the US closer to the welfare state policies of Western Europe. With no Republican support, Democrats are attempting to pass the bill using special budget reconciliation rules, but they can’t lose a single vote in the evenly divided Senate.

Biden and Putin meet in Geneva, Switzerland in June.
Biden and Putin meet in Geneva, Switzerland in June.
AP / Alexander Zemlianichenko

The House-passed version includes $555 billion for environmental programs and would establish federal funding for all states to provide preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and would cap child care costs at 7 percent of income for most families. It also would extend an enhanced child tax credit for families that earn up to $150,000 — from $2,000 to $3,000 per child, or $3,600 for those under six.

Additional funds in the package would go to subsidize home health care, construct new low-income housing and expand Medicare to include the cost of hearing aids.

The bill would increase from $10,000 to $80,000 the “SALT cap” on state and local taxes that can be deducted from federal taxes — benefiting people in high-tax area like New York and New Jersey — and federally subsidize four weeks of paid private-sector family leave.

Meanwhile, the Russian government published an ultimatum Friday demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back the alliance’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe. The Kremlin also called for a ban on sending US and Russian warships and aircraft to areas from where they can strike each other’s territory, along with a halt to NATO military drills near Russia. The demands are a near-certainty to be rejected by Washington and Brussels.

With Post wires

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