U.S. Senate Democrats on the Budget Committee agreed to establish a top-line spending threshold of $3.5 trillion for a measure that would enact the majority of President Joe Biden’s economic programme without Republican backing.
Chairman Bernie Sanders first proposed a $6 trillion package that included Medicare expansion, immigration reform, more generous childcare benefits, and more to Biden’s proposal.
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With the Medicare expansion, Sanders scored a major victory. Senator Mark Warner, a moderate from Virginia, claimed the plan will be fully funded.
“We are very proud of this plan,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said late Tuesday.
However, Schumer did include dental, hearing and vision benefits but did not specify if a proposal to decrease the eligibility age or a separate proposal to lower prescription medication prices would be included in the plan.
Biden intends to visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday to brief lawmakers on the proposal. Although the president did not immediately support it publicly, White House economic advisor Brian Deese and top legislative liaison Louisa Terrell were in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.
Though the Senate resolution falls short of Sanders’ initial plan by $2.5 trillion, the Vermont independent hailed it as “the most significant piece of legislation to be passed since the Great Depression and I’m delighted to be a part of it.”
Senator Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters that negotiations regarding how to pay for various items on the agenda are ongoing, and many specifics will be resolved later. According to a Democratic aide familiar with the resolution, it will prevent tax hikes for individuals earning less than $400,000 per year and small enterprises.
Additional to the $3.5 trillion topline is the bipartisan infrastructure plan, which has $579 billion as a starting point. On top of that, a $4 trillion long-term economic plan has to be considered.
“What I was excited about was the momentum in the room,” Wyden said.
It is going to enable Democrats to include a spending and tax plan in a Senate budget resolution, along with a detailed set of instructions that will allow just 50 Democratic-caucus votes plus Kamala Harris’s vote to be enough to move the legislation forward.
The proposed budget plan does not yet have the approval of all 50 caucus members and may be modified further once moderates and progressives weigh in. House Democrats are in discussions with Sanders’ committee but have not yet stated their support for the proposed accord.