WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Monday unveiled a sweeping, $3.5 trillion blueprint to boost social spending, raise taxes and pass a range of Democratic policies from electric car purchases to immigration reform under special budget rules.
Democrats hope to ram through the massive spending program without Republican support — vastly expanding federal renewable energy projects, putting new pollution fees in place, and setting up universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, free community college and subsidized paid family and sick leave.
The bill would hike taxes on businesses and higher incomes while also making the state and local tax (SALT) deduction cap more generous, in effect lowering taxes for some residents of high-tax jurisdictions like New York.
The budget reconciliation bill can pass with a bare majority in the evenly divided Senate and many of the details remain vague and will have to be hashed out through a series of amendments and likely protracted negotiations with Democratic centrists.
It’s unclear if instructions to grant green cards to “qualified immigrants” are intended to legalize people currently in the US illegally. Such a policy could be struck down as too tangential to the budget by the Senate parliamentarian, who earlier this year axed a proposed $15 national minimum wage from a different bill on that premise.
It’s also unclear how the final bill would alter the $10,000 SALT cap — with the blueprint calling only for “SALT cap relief.”
A single Democratic vote against the package in the Senate could doom the entire effort, and there will be a grueling series of amendment votes and a weeks-long period of actually writing one of the largest bills in US history.
Centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are expected to force substantial changes and potentially sink certain items altogether. For example, Manchin has opposed a national universal preschool program, noting that his state set up such a program without federal help.
The White House and Democrats have framed the package as “human infrastructure” that they say will complement the “physical infrastructure” bill, which funds bridges, roads, railways, airports, water infrastructure, broadband internet and other areas with substantial bipartisan support.
The bill also would dramatically increase funds for electric vehicles and non-fossil fuel energy production, though estimated dollar amounts weren’t in the new blueprint, which calls for “financing for domestic manufacturing of clean energy and auto supply chain
technologies” and “electrifying the federal vehicle fleet.”
The release of the blueprint comes as the Senate gears up to pass the $1 trillion bipartisan bill and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) threatens to stall a House vote until the massive second bill clears the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he plans to fast-track the measure after the chamber passes the bipartisan bill.
“Thanks to the good work of the ‘G22’ group of bipartisan Senators and our committees, we are on track to pass the most consequential ‘hard’ infrastructure legislation in decades. As soon as we complete this track, I will immediately move to the FY2022 Budget Resolution with reconciliation instructions,” he said in a letter to Democrats.
“The committees with reconciliation instructions will work closely with their House counterparts to write this legislation. The Budget Resolution provides a target date of September 15th to the committees to submit their reconciliation legislation,” Schumer continued in his letter.
“We will work towards this goal and meet, as a caucus, during the week of the 15th to review the bill.”
Top Republicans have blasted the plans, accusing members across the aisle of moving forward with a “massive spending spree” that they argue will have a negative impact on inflation.
Republicans plan to argue against the bill by pointing to substantial conservative support for the narrower infrastructure bill that includes $550 billion in new spending over five years.
“The Democratic Leader has indicated that in a few days, he will thrust the Senate into an ultra-partisan showdown over the staggeringly reckless taxing and spending spree that Democrats want to ram through later this year. The size and scope of Chairman Sanders’ socialist shopping list will make every disagreement we’ve had in landing the infrastructure compromise look like a rounding error,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Saturday ahead of its release.
“New permanent welfare with no work requirements. Reams of Green New Deal mandates. Massive tax hikes that shrink wages and kill jobs. Government meddling in childcare that would privilege certain families’ choices over others’. Amnesty for illegal immigrants in the middle of a border crisis.”
The measure left out a provision to raise the debt limit, teeing up a fight between the parties over the country’s borrowing limit.
Republicans had called on Democrats to attach the language while pushing back on the Democrat-led bill, taking aim at its potential impact on the deficit.