Senate Democrats announce $ 3.5 trillion budget deal


WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Democrats say they have reached a budget deal that envisions spending a whopping $ 3.5 trillion over the next decade, paving the way for their willingness to invest federal resources in climate change, the health care and family services programs sought by President Joe Biden.

The deal announced Tuesday night marks a major milestone in the party’s efforts to achieve Biden’s goal of strengthening an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and put it on the path to long-term growth. It includes an expansion of Medicare visual, hearing and dental benefits for older Americans, a goal of progressives.

But the Democrats behind the deal face possible objections from rival moderate and progressive factions and will have to work hard to convert their plans into legislation they can pass through the tightly divided Congress on it. which could be a unanimous Republican opposition.

“We are very proud of this plan,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y, told reporters. “We know we have a long way to go. We will do this for the purpose of improving the lives of average Americans. “

Biden will attend a closed-door lunch on Capitol Hill with Senate Democrats on Wednesday to focus on “implementing this wonderful plan,” Schumer said.

All in all, the ambitious proposal reflects Biden’s vision of making the most substantial potential investments in the country in years, some say on par with the New Deal of the 1930s. With a slimmer bipartisan effort of $ 1,000 billion. With dollars worth of roads, highways and traditional public works also being negotiated, they represent nearly the president’s initial effort of more than $ 4 trillion that could reach almost any corner of the country.

The Democrats’ goal is to pass a budget resolution reflecting Tuesday’s deal in the House and Senate before lawmakers leave for their August recess. The resolution only sets general spending and revenue parameters, leaving actual funding and specific decisions on which programs are affected – and to what extent – for further legislation.

Nonetheless, approving a budget will be a major boon to Democrats’ efforts to enact their next funding bill. That’s because the budget contains language that would allow Democrats to lower the Senate tracking spending measure to 50-50 with a simple simple majority, not the 60 votes Republicans might demand by using. a bill killer buccaneer.

Actual spending legislation is unlikely to start passing through Congress until the fall.

Separately, a bipartisan group of senators are working to flesh out a measure that would spend around $ 1 trillion on roads, water systems and other infrastructure projects, another priority for Biden. Biden and that group had agreed to a preview of the measure last month.

On Wednesday, Biden will push for public support for this infrastructure proposal by welcoming a bipartisan group of governors and mayors to the White House. He plans to focus on the bipartisan aspects of the proposal, as senators scramble to finalize details for a Thursday deadline.

It will highlight some of the areas where Democrats and Republicans have agreed, including investments in removing lead pipes, expanding high-speed internet access, public transportation and reconstruction of roads and bridges. Biden will also speak about the impact his policies would have on local communities, according to an administration official who shared details with the PA on condition of anonymity.

Discussing the budget deal, Schumer and other lawmakers did not respond when asked if they had the support of the 50 Democratic senators, which they will need to be successful. They also have virtually no margin for error in the House, where they can only lose three Democratic votes and win.

Moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., May yet demand further changes to lower the price of the plan and its impact on already huge federal deficits. Progressives in both chambers might insist on strengthening it or other changes.

Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., The chairman of the budget committee and other progressives initially pushed for a $ 6 trillion budget, while party moderates insisted on a much lower price. Biden had offered about $ 4.5 trillion.

The Democrats’ announcement on Tuesday left many questions about their budget deal unanswered. These included how much it would increase through increases in taxes on the rich and corporations and other income to pay its costs; how much would be spent on specific programs; and how Biden’s proposals would be scaled down or eliminated to fit into legislation.

Schumer said the proposal would call for funding Biden’s budget priorities “in a robust manner.” He also said he would include a priority from Sanders and other progressives: an extension of Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, to cover dental, vision and hearing services.

Sanders said the deal would end an era in which the rich and big business did not shoulder enough the burden of funding government programs.

“Those days are over,” he said. “The rich and big business are going to start paying their fair share of taxes, so we can protect the working families of this country.”

Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., A moderate leader who helped shape the budget package, said the measure would be paid for in full with offsetting revenues, but he did not provide any details. Biden offered to fund the measure with higher taxes on the wealthy and businesses and to bolster the IRS budget so it can collect more income from crooks.

The budget will include language calling for no tax increases for people earning less than $ 400,000 a year, a request from Biden or for small businesses. The arrangement was described by a Democratic aide who insisted on anonymity to discuss the negotiations.

On infrastructure, lawmakers aim to conclude details by Thursday despite opposition from business leaders, outside activists and some GOP senators over how to pay for the $ 1,000 billion plan, which includes about $ 579 billion in new spending beyond regular spending already funded by gas. taxes and other sources.

Senators leaving a meeting on Tuesday suggested they hadn’t resolved the questions of how to pay for the package so much but moved beyond them – apparently accepting that some of the proposed revenue streams might not be included in formal assessments of the Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan tax marker for lawmakers.

Manchin said he hoped the CBO’s score, as it is called, would show “everything pays off.”

“Otherwise,” he said, “we’ll have to make some adjustments. “

Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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