The $3.5 trillion spending bill being pushed by President Biden and Congressional Democratic leadership includes a $3 billion “tree equity” outlay for planting saplings and $25 million on “anti-discrimination and bias training” in the healthcare industry — as well as nearly $79 billion for the Internal Revenue Service to step up its enforcement of tax laws.
Those are just three of the eye-popping provisions in the spending bill, the final text of which was released Saturday and which is set to be debated and voted on by the House later this week.
While the measure has made headlines over its authorization of huge new spending on a broad array of social issues pushed by the left — including social safety net programs, and components of the Green New Deal — a close look at the bill reveals less-discussed measures likely to stir similar controversy.
The $3 billion earmarked by the House Agriculture Committee would be doled out to state, local or tribal governments for “tree planting and related activities to increase community tree canopy and associated societal and climate co-benefits, with a priority for projects that increase tree equity.”
According to the conservation non-profit American Forests, “tree equity” refers to the idea that there should be “enough trees in specific neighborhoods or municipalities for everyone to experience the health, economic and climate benefits that trees provide.”
“Trees are more than scenery for our cities,” American Forests says on its website. “They are critical infrastructure that every person in every neighborhood deserves — a basic right that we must secure.”
The bill also sets aside at least $7.5 billion for the creation of a New Deal-style “Civilian Climate Corps” across multiple agencies, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Civilian Climate Corps is tasked in the bill with carrying out vague “conservation projects” on public land.
The green spending increases when it comes to electric vehicles. The United States Postal Service alone will get $7 billion to purchase “electric delivery vehicles” and related infrastructure, while another $5 billion will go toward electric cars for the rest of the federal government, “including non-tactical vehicles of the Department of Defense.”
One of the biggest outlays in the spending proposal is for the IRS, which will get $78.9 billion over the next 10 years to “for strengthening tax enforcement activities and increasing voluntary compliance, expanding audits and other enforcement activities”. The bill text notes that “no use of these funds is intended to increase taxes on any taxpayer with taxable income below $400,000,” though critics have warned that the increased enforcement will fall disproportionately on small businesses rather than the large corporations it is meant to effect.
Union members will get a small break from that enhanced IRS enforcement, as the proposed spending plan allows taxpayers to deduct union dues of up to $250 beginning next year. It also earmarks up to $5 million for the National Labor Relations Board to install electronic voting mechanisms for union elections.
In addition, the bill calls for the Treasury to hand out $25 million to non-profit groups “to develop, disseminate, review, research, and evaluate training for health professionals and all staff who interact with patients to reduce discrimination and bias in the provision of health care, with a focus on maternal health care.”
The proposal also allocates more than $1 trillion in programs for older Americans, including $15 million for “technical assistance centers or national resource centers” that would focus on “older individuals who are underserved due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Finally, the measure allocates $2.8 million to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to “efficiently adjudicate applications … and to reduce case processing backlogs.” Democrats had hoped to include a pathway for millions of immigrants to become US citizens in the final version of the plan, but their dreams were dashed earlier this month by the Senate parliamentarian, who ruled that the policy impact of the proposal was outweighed by the budget impact.