Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pressed lawmakers to agree by next week to a pair massive domestic spending measures. This signaled Democrats’ determination to aggressively pursue President Joe Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar agenda.
Schumer, D.N.Y., stated that he would schedule a procedural vote next Wednesday in order to start debate on the bipartisan, still evolving infrastructure bill. After weeks of negotiations, senators from both sides have failed to agree on a $1 trillion package for highway, water systems, and other public works projects.
Schumer stated that he wanted Democratic senators also to agree by then on the details of a separate 10-year Budget blueprint that envisages spending $3.5 trillion for climate change, education and Medicare expansion.
“It is now that we can make progress. We will. Schumer stated on the Senate floor, “We must.”
The plans of the majority leader were designed to force lawmakers to reach a compromise so Democrats can move forward with their plans to fortify and strengthen the economy over the long-term and help lower-earning families and the middle class while increasing taxes on the wealthy.
To start the debate on the infrastructure measure, it will require 60 votes. This is because Republicans expect to use a filibuster (procedural delays) to try to kill it.
This means that the chamber’s 50 Democrats need to be supported by at least 10 Republicans. Democratic leaders believe that a bipartisan agreement on the popular road and other projects will attract enough Republicans to allow them to succeed. The issue of which revenue they will raise to pay for infrastructure legislation has been a major sticking point for bargainers.
Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schumer, the House Speaker, are asking Congress to approve a $3.5 billion budget resolution before lawmakers go on summer recess next year. The Democrats need to approve that measure. It would prevent a subsequent bill that actually provides that money for programs — likely this fall — from being blocked by more GOP filibusters. This would allow Democrats to pass the measure on their own.
The House must also pass the infrastructure bill and budget resolution, both of which are controlled narrowly by Democrats.
Biden visited the Capitol on Wednesday to seek support for his ambitious agenda. This could be a landmark achievement that will need near-unanimous support from discordant Democrats.
The president spent less than an hour with Democratic senators at a closed-door lunch in the same building where he was a Delaware senator for 36 years and where his party still controls the Senate and House.
After his first meeting with legislators at the Capitol since becoming president, Biden stated that it was great to be together with my colleagues and that he believes we will get a lot accomplished.
The Democrats’ agreement on the $3.5 trillion figure was a significant step by a party whose moderate and progressive rivals have different visions of how bold and costly the final package should be. It’s only an initial step that will leave the most difficult decisions for later. The plan must be translated into legislation, with specific revenue and spending figures. Finally, they will need to get the votes necessary to pass it. This process is likely to drag on through the autumn.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Republican on Budget Committee, dismissed the emerging plan as a liberal waste list that would increase taxes and inflation.
“Count me in to build real infrastructure. He said, “Count me out for a tax-and-spend plan from Hell.”
Overall spending by Democrats is slightly less than $4.5 trillion that Biden would like for new spending on infrastructure, family services, climate and other programs. Some of Biden’s proposals will be rescinded or eliminated by lawmakers to accommodate the lower figure.
Unsurprisingly, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, possibly the most conservative Democrat in his chamber, indicated that he would not support proposals to reduce fossil fuels. These are vital resources for West Virginia’s economy. Because of his demands to reduce spending, Democrats had to abandon a long-held progressive goal, the minimum wage increase in pandemic relief legislation, early this year.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders,I-Vt., self-described democratic socialist and leader of the Democrats’ progressive side, has provided key backing to the overall plan. He has repeatedly called the agreement historic, and said Wednesday that he would like to see more spending (he had earlier requested $6 trillion), but the truth is that all 50 Democratic senators must prevail.
Senior Democratic aides said that the budget would include tax credits for children, child-care and low-income families, as well as money for green energy technologies. A federal standard was also included to encourage a shift towards clean energy. According to the aide, the plan would provide funding for pre-kindergarten, college student aid, food and housing assistance, and a path to citizenship for potential many million illegal immigrants.
A top priority is also included — the expansion of Medicare, an older Americans’ health insurance program, to include vision and dental coverage. Sanders suggested that there might also be an effort to lower the eligibility age for this program to 60.
This would be costly, but the senior aide stated that Democrats are also interested in savings by letting the government negotiate prescription drugs costs. According to the aide, there will be language that prohibits tax increases for those earning less than $400,000 per year. This would include small-business owners and family farmers.
Leading moderate Senator Mark Warner, D-Va. said that the entire measure would be paid for using new revenue. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, stated in an interview that he is working on proposals to “ensure the superwealthy mega-corporations pay your fair share” and to provide additional funding for the IRS to combat tax scofflaws.