Build Back Better May Not Have Passed a Decade Ago

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“Look at the millennials in my district, who can’t afford a house, who can’t afford to pay back their student loans, who can’t even dream about living the lives their parents lived,” Representative John B. Larson of Connecticut, a veteran Democrat, said. “You can’t tell people they are doing better than they are.”

And as society has changed, so has the Democratic Party. Representative Jamaal Bowman’s New York district stretches from the wealthy suburb of Scarsdale to the tougher streets of Mount Vernon, and for 32 years, was represented by a white establishment Democrat, Eliot L. Engel.

Mr. Bowman, a progressive Black man who defeated Mr. Engel in a Democratic primary last year, said his constituents acknowledge wealth inequality and income stagnation in their midst — in part, because he won’t let them deny it.

“If they tried to look the other way, they really can’t,” Mr. Bowman said. “And they know that whether it’s through government or private industry, or both, we have to do more to close the inequality gap.”

Republicans are still betting that voters will fixate on the spectacle of a Democratic president struggling for months to unite his divided majority around his agenda. They argue that the chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan, rising inflation and unsteady economic growth have only added to a sense that the country is adrift, and say they are not about to allow Democrats to use the social safety net bill to distract from those concerns.

“We have a supply chain crisis that continues to rage on, exacerbating the skyrocketing prices and scarcity of goods our citizens are experiencing,” the House Republican leader, Mr. McCarthy, said Thursday. “And ask yourself this: What has this chamber done, especially this week, to alleviate any of these pressures on our fellow citizens, the people we were sent here to represent? The answer is absolutely nothing.”

Passage of the bill, Republicans say, will only stoke inflation, force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, and create “stagflation,” the combination of stagnant economic growth and rising prices that doomed Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

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