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Senate Democrats reach $3.5tn budget agreement

On infrastructure, senators from both parties met on Tuesday evening and their bipartisan deal appeared back on track, after days of disputes.

SNS | WASHINGTON |

Senate Democrats agreed on an enormous $3.5 trillion investment plan over the coming decade, said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The accord marks a major step in the party’s push to meet Biden’s goal of bolstering a pandemic-ravaged economy.

“We are very proud of this plan,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters. “We know we have a long road to go. We’re going to get this done for the sake of making average Americans’ lives a whole lot better.”

Biden was set to attend a closed-door lunch at the Capitol on Wednesday with all Senate Democrats “to lead us on to getting this wonderful plan” enacted, Schumer said.

The resolution sets only broad spending and revenue parameters, leaving the actual funding and specific decisions about which programs are affected — and by exactly how much — for later legislation.

Separately on Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators continued working on a third measure that would spend around $1 trillion on roads, water systems and other infrastructure projects, another Biden priority.

Biden and 10 senators — five from each party — had agreed to an outline of that compromise measure last month, and bargainers have worked ever since to flesh it out.

In discussing the budget agreement, Schumer and other lawmakers did not respond when asked if they had the support of all 50 Democratic senators, which they will need to succeed.

They also have virtually no margin for error in the House, where they will be able to lose no more than three Democratic votes and still prevail.

Moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., might still demand further changes to reduce the plan’s price tag and impact on already huge federal deficits.

Progressives in both chambers might insist on beefing it up or other changes.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the Budget Committee chairman, and other progressives pushed initially for a $6 trillion budget top line while party moderates insisted on a far lower price tag. Biden had proposed around $4.5 trillion.

Schumer said the proposal would call for financing Biden’s budget priorities “in a robust way.” He also said it would include a priority of Sanders and other progressives: an expansion of Medicare, the federal health insurance program for older people, to cover dental, vision and hearing services.

Sanders said the agreement would end an era in which, he said, rich people and big companies weren’t bearing enough of the burden of financing government programmes.

“The wealthy and large corporations are going to start paying their fair share of taxes, so that we can protect the working families of this country.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., a leading moderate who helped shape the budget package, said the measure would be fully paid for with offsetting revenue but provided no detail.

On infrastructure, senators from both parties met on Tuesday evening and their bipartisan deal appeared back on track, after days of disputes. Lawmakers said they were aiming for a new Thursday deadline to wrap up the details despite opposition from business leaders, outside activists and some GOP senators over how to pay for it.

Even if the bipartisan group can meet its new deadline for agreement, it’s still a long shot the bill would be ready for a vote next week.

Senators have struggled to agree to revenue streams to fund the $1 trillion plan, which includes about $579 billion in new spending beyond regular expenditures already funded by gas taxes and other sources.

At least 10 Republican senators would be needed to back the infrastructure bill, joining with all 50 Democrats to reach the 60-vote threshold because it would still be vulnerable to a filibuster.