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Democrats are debating whether doing nothing will cost more than doing something to deal with climate change, education, child care, prescription drugs and more.
WASHINGTON — As lawmakers debate how much to spend on President Biden’s sprawling domestic agenda, they are really arguing about a seemingly simple issue: affordability.
Can a country already running huge deficits afford the scope of spending that the president envisions? Or, conversely, can it afford to wait to address large social, environmental and economic problems that will accrue costs for years to come?
It is a stealth battle over the fiscal future at a time when few lawmakers in either party have prioritized addressing debt and deficits. Each side believes its approach would put the nation’s finances on a more sustainable path by generating the strongest, most durable economic growth possible.
The debate has shaped a discussion among lawmakers about what to prioritize as they scale back Mr. Biden’s initial proposal to dedicate $3.5 trillion over 10 years to programs and tax cuts that would curb greenhouse gas emissions, make child care more affordable, expand access to college and lower prescription drug prices, among other priorities. The smaller bill under discussion could increase the total amount of government spending on all current programs by about 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent over the next decade, depending on its size and components.
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