Senate MPs unveil $ 3.5 billion budget for social and climate efforts | Chicago News


In this August 3, 2021 photo, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Democrats on Monday unveiled a budget resolution that calls for $ 3.5 trillion in spending increases and tax breaks to boost social and environmental programs, setting up a fall battle royale on the main domestic political ambitions of President Joe Biden.

The measure lays the groundwork for separate legislation later this year that, over a decade, would pour mountains of federal resources into top Democrats’ priorities. This would include more money for health care, education, family services and environmental programs and tax breaks for families, much of which is paid for by tax increases on the rich and on corporations.

While Democratic leaders have said the measure will be paid for in full, the budget does not require it. The Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, which oversee tax legislation, were given the opportunity to raise as much money as they wanted to offset the costs of the bill, and a memorandum summarizing the budget indicates that these savings will be “substantial”.

The budget’s introduction marks the start of a long legislative journey through Congress that Democrats say will culminate in a gradual overhaul of government this fall. To succeed, they will have to overcome the probably unanimous Republican opposition and find the right balance between the demands of their own progressive and moderate factions, often antagonistic.

It will be a difficult task in a Congress which they control by a hair. They will need the support of all Senate Democrats at 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris knocking out the vote, and can only lose three House Democrats and win – margins that give every Democrat tons of leverage.

“Basically, this legislation is about restoring the middle class to the 21st century and giving more Americans a chance to make it happen,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said in a letter to his colleagues which unveiled the plan. .

The resolution calls for the creation of a free pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds and two-year free community college, the extension of tax breaks for children and some low-income workers, and the establishment paid family and sick leave.

Medicare coverage would be expanded to cover dental, hearing and vision benefits, and the program’s eligibility age would be lowered from its current age of 65. money for states that have yet to expand Medicaid coverage.

Spending would also increase for housing, home health care and skills training, and new resources would be directed to efforts to encourage a faster transition to clean energy.

To pay for the plans, taxes would be raised on wealthy people and big corporations, without any increases on people earning less than $ 400,000 a year, a key commitment of the Biden campaign. The budget also calls for lower prices the federal government pays for the pharmaceuticals it purchases for Medicare beneficiaries, a long-standing goal of Democrats who want the government to be allowed to negotiate those prices. Savings would also come from strengthening the IRS enforcement so that it could collect more unpaid taxes.

The budget also calls for granting legal status to millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States and, in a move to garner support from moderate Democrats, spending money to beef up border security. But this language will have to be approved by the parliamentarian of the Senate, who applies rules that prohibit provisions that are too political and not mainly linked to the budget.

The measure contains no provision increasing or suspending the federal debt limit, the limit on federal borrowing that has already expired. The Treasury Department uses accounting maneuvers to keep the government paying its bills.

Senatorial Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Said Republicans would not provide any votes to extend the borrowing cap. But in a statement released Monday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged lawmakers to “meet on a bipartisan basis” to avoid what would be “irreparable harm” to the US economy and families.

Democrats are expected to approve the resolution against unanimous Republican opposition, perhaps this week. Passage of the budget is crucial because it would allow a subsequent bill – in effect enacting the Democrats’ 10-year, $ 3.5 trillion spending and tax change plan – to be passed by the Senate in simple majority.

Without this protection, the follow-up would fall prey to a GOP filibuster, delaying tactics that require 60 votes to end.

“For too many decades, Congress has ignored the needs of the working class, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. “Now is the time to act boldly. Now is the time to restore the confidence of ordinary Americans that their government can work for them, not just the wealthy campaign backers. “

Even so, Democrats would have to wait until a good start to fall to complete the $ 3.5 trillion follow-up bill, as progressives and moderate rivals scramble to determine which of their priorities will survive.

The budget resolution allocates congressional committees specific amounts of money to spend and outlines the policy changes party leaders are supporting in the follow-up bill actually enacting those changes. But those committees will have the final say on the legislation they produce, and crafting this fall’s Democratic compromise with virtually no margin for error will be a long-term challenge for party leaders.

Senate debate on the budget resolution will begin as soon as the chamber approves a $ 1 trillion bipartisan package to fund highways, water, broadband and other infrastructure projects, which is expected soon.

Unlike this compromise, Republicans are strongly opposed to the Democrats’ separate $ 3.5 trillion plan. They see the fight as a politically fertile fight as next year’s elections approach for control of the House and Senate, and plan to force the vote on amendments on issues such as immigration, crime. and inflation, which they believe will work to their advantage in next year’s campaigns. .

Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion budget plan “will drag the Senate into an ultra-partisan showdown over the staggering and reckless tax and spending spree” they want, GOP chief McConnell said last week in the Senate.

The fate of the bipartisan infrastructure package and the separate $ 3.5 trillion social and environmental measure is linked as moderates and Progressive Democrats struggle internally over how aggressively the party should spend federal resources.

Moderates are strong supporters of the infrastructure measure, and many fear that the $ 3.5 trillion package will make them vulnerable to GOP burdens of overspending and raising taxes. Progressives do not want to sign the infrastructure bill without the assurance – which they have not yet obtained – that the moderates will provide the votes necessary to approve broader social and environmental legislation.

As a result, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Said the House would not vote on the infrastructure measure until the Senate also approved the $ 3.5 trillion bill. dollars still unwritten.

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