WASHINGTON – As President Biden stood in the rose garden this month basking in the glow of his newly passed US $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package, he selected two lawmakers who had grappled in relative obscurity over key regulations for years.
“Rosa, you and I spent so much time on this,” Biden told Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat and 30-year veteran of the House. “You guys – you, Patty and others – have been leading this for so long and it’s finally coming to fruition.”
Patty, like Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat entering her 29th year in Congress, and Ms. DeLauro have worked for decades on initiatives to lift children out of poverty, often behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.
But when Mr. Biden, 78, and himself a 36-year-old Capitol Hill veteran, pushes an ambitious liberal agenda – including the sweeping pandemic relief law that aims to cut child poverty in half – Ms. DeLauro and Ms. Murray have his legislative powers and his deep experience used to keep his bold promises.
The two have teamed up to ensure that the passing of the stimulus bill is a lifeline for the country’s poorest families, and have expanded an existing tax credit to make additional payments for one year to one year An estimated 27 million vulnerable children. Their success underscores the generation gap that drives Congress in the Biden era: with the Democratic Party powered and dragged to the left by a dynamic and diverse group of newcomers, it is the liberal veterans – many of them women – who do this have built up expertise and influence and are able to push through groundbreaking initiatives.
Ms. DeLauro, 78, the colorful daughter of Italian immigrants who settled in New Haven, Connecticut, and Ms. Murray, 70, the calm, self-described “mother in tennis shoes,” who worked for her father’s five-cent ratio on the business outside Seattle had worked, sometimes unsuccessfully, on child poverty, education, and health issues for decades. By the time Mr Biden took office and promised a full federal bailout initiative, they already had suggestions on their shelves and a sense of what it would take to get them done.
They phoned White House officials and haggled with their peers to instigate aid to impoverished children, seen as the most aggressive federal intervention since the New Deal.
“They are the worker bees of Congress – when it comes to social and domestic affairs, these two ladies just rule,” said Leticia Mederos, who worked for both women and was Ms. DeLauro’s chief of staff for two decades at Capitol Hill. “So much of the democratic platform runs through their agendas, but it hasn’t always been like that. Fifteen years ago it was like looking from the outside in.”
Even now, with their party under unified control in Washington, the two have struggled to have their problems addressed. As Mr Biden was preparing to present his stimulus plan, Ms DeLauro heard that the child tax credit, a proposal she first made this month 18 years ago, was not part of it. She stepped into action and stayed up late calling a list of the top White House officials – including Ron Klain, the chief of staff; Susan E. Rice, the director of the Home Affairs Council; and Steve Ricchetti, Mr. Biden’s advisor – until she got approval to admit him.
“I didn’t mean to take no for an answer,” said Ms. DeLauro.
Across the Capitol, Ms. Murray, now the Chair of the Senate Health and Education Committee, worked with New York City Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, to devise strategies to unite the Democrats as they maneuvered the measure through the Chamber. She and her staff were also part of an effort to include key provisions in the stimulus package, including a significant temporary increase in subsidies earned under the Affordable Care Act and the terms of a significant portion of the law’s school funding.
“It’s so clear that you can come here and bring these issues up and people nod,” Yeah, that’s good, “Ms. Murray said.” But you don’t get it as a priority. You don’t get it in a legislative package. You are not allowed to vote. “
“But now we have more women here who have worked,” she added. “You’re here voting us and it’s just great.”
For both legislators, the work is deeply personal.
Ms. DeLauro remembers returning home as a child on a Friday night to find her family’s furniture on the street. They had been evicted and lived with their grandmother until they regained their finances.
She still carries the feeling into the halls of Congress and the needs of families in trouble are never far from their priorities during negotiations, she said.
“It’s not that my male colleagues don’t think about these things,” said Ms. DeLauro. “But just as a reminder – we convey a feeling for what is important for families and what is important for children.”
As a teenage girl in Washington, Ms. Murray and her family, including six siblings, relied on grocery stamps for months after her father’s illness prevented him from working. Her first foray into politics, famously, was an episode in which she said she was fired by state lawmakers as a “mother in tennis shoes” who would fail in her efforts to fight back budget cuts for a preschool program. She accepted the label and has been campaigning for it ever since.
“All of these issues are things that many Americans have experienced,” Ms. Murray said. Her focus, she added, was on guidelines that ensure Americans feel “that there is a place for them in this country where they can work and care for their families at the same time.”
Children “are the reason she wakes up every day – they are the most important thing in her life and in her job,” said Mike Spahn, a former chief of staff. “She’s only in politics because she was personally motivated by the impact of government policies on children’s lives.”
Ms. Murray was a Senator in 1991 when Anita Hill testified before the all-male Judicial Committee during the Supreme Court confirmatory hearing for Judge Clarence Thomas. Ms. Murray watched Ms. Hill testify about the sexual harassment she experienced for Judge Thomas and found herself inspired to run for the Senate.
“I’ve been sitting hundreds of miles – thousands of miles – away and I think these people are not talking on the subject,” Ms. Murray recalled in an interview. “Nobody sits in the Senate who can fight for what I believe in because they don’t know.”
A year later, she was one of the four women newly elected to the Senate and set a record in the so-called Year of the Woman. (There are now two dozen women serving there; Mrs. Murray is the second highest.)
“I think a lot of male senators were really scared of it – scared of us,” she recalled. “Oh my god what are you going to do? Will they burn the streets down here? “
The stimulus payments would be $ 1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $ 1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $ 75,000 or less. For householders, the adjusted gross income should be $ 112,500 or less, and for married couples filing together, that number should be $ 150,000 or less. To be eligible for a payment, an individual must have a social security number. Continue reading.
Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become much cheaper. Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, COBRA generally lets someone who loses a job purchase coverage through their previous employer. But it’s expensive: under normal circumstances, a person must pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the full COBRA premium from April 1 to September 30. An individual who qualified for new employer-based health insurance elsewhere before September 30th would lose their eligibility for free coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would also be ineligible. Continue reading
This loan, which helps working families offset the cost of looking after children under the age of 13 and other dependents, would be significantly extended for a single year. More people would be eligible and many recipients would get a longer break. The bill would also fully refund the balance, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill were zero. “This will be helpful for people on the lower end of the income spectrum,” said Mark Luscombe, chief federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Continue reading.
There would be a big one for people who are already in debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on debt relief if you qualify for loan origination or cancellation – for example, if you’ve been on an income-based repayment plan for the required number of years, if your school cheated on you, or if Congress or the President whisper $ 10,000 debt gone for a large number of people. This would be the case for debts canceled between January 1, 2021 and the end of 2025. Read more.
The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility benefits to people who are struggling and at risk of being evicted from their homes. About $ 27 billion would be used for emergency rentals. The vast majority of these would replenish what is known as the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which is created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local, and tribal governments. according to to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. This is on top of the $ 25 billion made available through the aid package passed in December. To get financial support that could be used for rent, utilities and other housing costs, households would have to meet several conditions. Household income cannot exceed 80 percent of area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or residential instability, and individuals would be at risk due to the pandemic. Support can last up to 18 months. according to to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families who have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for support. Continue reading.
She recalled that one of her male colleagues was stunned when she dropped a Senate vote to care for her son, who had gotten sick at school.
Ms. Murray quickly learned the ropes, practicing doing business with Republicans, and putting critical provisions on unwieldy invoices. She honed her skills as a legislative tactician with the help of two fellow Democrats who had mastered Senate process and politics: Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, who led the Health and Education Committee, who wears the same hammer that Mrs. Murray is now holding.
When a troubled Mr. Byrd was unable to manage the procedural minutes of the Senate’s annual appropriation process – a vast, drawn-out, and crucial task – it was Ms. Murray who stood up for him.
“She really learned the insider game and the art of legislation,” said Spahn. “There are a lot of incredible advocates, but there are fewer and fewer people who know how to put that into not only politics but also law, and they learned from this old school crew who are in the Hall of Fame . “
While Ms. Murray is a decidedly calm and private personality, Ms. DeLauro is her opposite. Known for her lively hand gestures, often accentuated by statement jewelry and scarves – and a shock of brightly colored hair in her signature bob – Ms. DeLauro is a whirlwind of energy on the floor of the house.
She followed in the footsteps of her parents, who were local government officials in New Haven, and often opened the family’s kitchen table to neighbors – many Italian immigrants – who needed help. Ms. DeLauro went into public service.
She worked for Connecticut Senator Christopher J. Dodd and was his chief of staff for seven years before joining Emily’s List, a political action committee that campaigns for the election of democratic women. In 1990, Ms. DeLauro ran herself and won a seat in the House of Representatives for a district in central Connecticut that included her hometown of New Haven.
Upon arriving in Washington, Ms. DeLauro became a close ally of a member of the California Democratic House, Nancy Pelosi, long before Ms. Pelosi was promoted to spokesperson. Over the years, Ms. DeLauro rose to the ranks of the Grants Committee, remaining in Ms. Pelosi’s close-knit group of advisers. She is now the second woman to head the panel. While not apologetically liberal, Ms. DeLauro also has the pragmatic impetus of a veteran of high-stakes legislative battles.
The stimulus talks tested this approach. Due to the strict budget rules governing the reconciliation process that the Democrats used to get the bill through the Senate without Republican votes, Ms. DeLauro and Ms. Murray were unable to ensure a permanent expansion of the child tax credit or the new Affordable Care Act subsidies .
They partook in a loaf, made the provisions temporary, and figured out what would be a bloody political struggle for renewal over the next year. With Mr. Biden preparing a two-part infrastructure plan that is expected to include significant investments in childcare and support for women in the workforce, both lawmakers are likely to play a major role in running Congress.
“If something is not supposed to be and you can’t get it done, look for a way how it can be partially done,” said Ms. DeLauro. “What are the things you can get so it’s not my way or the highway? That’s not what the legislature is about.”