Senate Democrats advance $3.5 trillion spending package without any Republican support

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders hold a meeting with Budget Committee Democrats at the Capitol on June 16, 2021.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, right, with the Senate Budget Committee's chairman, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Samuel Corum/Getty Images
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Senate Democrats advanced the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint on early Wednesday, setting the stage for what could be a historic level of spending to expand the social safety net, a key goal for President Joe Biden.

The vote was 50-49 along party lines. It capped what's known as a "vote-a-rama" that saw a barrage of nonbinding amendment votes on measures ranging from police reform, immigration, and agriculture along with clashes over the impact of the spending on the economy. The session lasted over 14 hours.

Every Senate Democrat voted in favor of the plan over unanimous Republican opposition. GOP Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota was absent for the vote, The New York Times reported.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the plan would lead to "a generational transformation to how our economy works for average Americans."

"This legislation is going to ask the wealthy and the powerful to start paying their fair share of taxes so that we can address the needs of working families, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor," Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee chair, said on Tuesday.

Republicans assailed it as an expensive gambit that will saddle the economy with tax increases and inflation. "They're just throwing every liberal idea and hoping it sticks to the wall," Sen. Lindsay Graham, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said Tuesday.

It now heads to the House, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi is bringing back into session the week of Aug. 23 to pass the spending blueprint. She's pledged to not put up the bipartisan infrastructure plan for a vote until the Senate clears the reconciliation bill. That path allows the passage of certain bills with a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of the 60 typically required in the Senate.

The spending plan introduced Monday would expand Medicare so it provides dental, vision, and hearing coverage. It would also set up a national program for paid family and medical leave as well as tuition-free community college, a child allowance, and initiatives to address the climate crisis. Democrats also intend to include a pathway to citizenship for some unauthorized immigrants living in the US.

The entire package would be funded with tax hikes on the richest Americans and multinational companies, rolling back the 2017 Republican tax law passed under President Donald Trump.

The resolution was adopted on the heels of the Senate giving final approval for a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. It fulfilled a top priority of Schumer as he labored to move both measures on what he called a "dual-track' throughout the summer. The Senate recessed shortly after Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas blocked an attempt from Schumer to bring up a voting rights measure.

Now, a dozen committees will begin drafting formal reconciliation legislation with a September 15 deadline.

It sets up what may be a perilous legislative stretch for Democrats as they assemble the massive economic plan. Many Democrats view the spending as historic, reflecting a decade of pent-up Democratic goals they struggled to achieve under President Barack Obama.

They're attempting to command their narrow Senate and House majorities and deliver on a broad range of economic programs to level the playing field for middle-class Americans. Biden must keep Democrats in lockstep, given House Democrats can afford only three defections and Senate Democrats cannot lose the support of anyone.

Only hours after the vote, the spending plan ran into early signs of trouble. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia released a statement that indicated he could cut the level of proposed spending. He said he had "serious concerns" about its cost.

"Given the current state of the economic recovery, it is simply irresponsible to continue spending at levels more suited to respond to a Great Depression or Great Recession - not an economy that is on the verge of overheating," the West Virginia Democrat said. He joined Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, another moderate Democrat, in raising alarm about the price tag.

Read the original article on Business Insider