President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda and massive spending bills before the House this week are something Americans "desperately needs," former President Barack Obama said.
Obama pointed to the social benefit programs proposed in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package that Democrats hope to pass whether a single Republican in Congress supports it.
"So when you look at the overall package, it's got a headline price tag of $3.5 trillion, but that's not a single year – this is spread out over a number of years," Obama told ABC News' Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview. "And, most importantly, it's paid for by asking the wealthiest of Americans, who have benefited incredibly over the last several decades — and even in the midst of a pandemic, saw their wealth and assets rise enormously — asking them to pay a few percentage points more in taxes in order to make sure that we have a economy that's fair for everybody."
Obama demurred when Roberts asked if it was fair to put the cost on Americans who are already paying the bulk of the taxes.
"I think that they can afford it," Obama responded. "We can afford it. I put myself in this category now."
Obama concluded wealthy Americans have an "unsustainable" argument of protecting their earnings from increased taxation.
"I think anybody who pretends that it's a hardship for billionaires to pay a little bit more in taxes so that a single mom gets child care support or so that we can make sure that our communities aren't inundated by wildfires and floods and that we're doing something about climate change for the next generation — you know, that's an argument that is unsustainable," he said.
The Senate has already passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said will come to a vote Thursday. But the 50-50 Senate might lose some support if House Democrats hold to their previous plan to pass both infrastructure and a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package together.
The size of the latter package might be trimmed this week, as moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has questioned the urgency for some of the spending plans, while Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said she cannot support that level of spending after working to gather Republican support on the $1.23 trillion infrastructure plan on the condition it would be independent of the budget reconciliation bill.
Despite Obama's urging, Democrats up to and including President Joe Biden are doubting the ability to pass a comprehensive budget by the end of the fiscal year, which ends this week.
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