Democrats Search for Consensus on Massive Spending Package

Democrats Search for Consensus on Massive Spending Package

Democratic lawmakers are rushing this week to complete the blueprint for a massive, multi-trillion-dollar spending package they plan to offer alongside a smaller, bipartisan infrastructure bill, and as Politico reports Tuesday, they are cramming as many priorities as they can into the plan, which is likely their last opportunity to pass legislation via budget reconciliation this year — a process that would theoretically require no GOP support.

The package is expected to include programs left out of the bipartisan infrastructure package agreed to by the White House and Senate negotiators. Many of those priorities have been laid out in President Joe Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda. In addition, progressive lawmakers are pushing to add some of their own priorities to the mix.

Here are some of the programs being discussed for inclusion in the still-developing plan, according to Politico:

* Universal prekindergarten,
* Free community college for two years,
* Paid family leave,
* Paid medical leave,
Free meals for all public school students, regardless of income,
* Permanent child tax credit,
* Tax breaks for renewable energy,
* Tax subsidies for affordable housing,
* Tax break for child care expenses,
* Subsidies to promote green farming practices,
* Additional funding for election infrastructure,
* Funding for broadband internet,
* “Prevailing wage” mandate for federal projects,
* Electric vehicle charging stations,
* Empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices,
* Medicare coverage expansion for dental, vision and hearing care,
* Lowering the age of Medicare eligibility.

Funding is crucial: Paying for all the proposed spending could be a decisive issue for many lawmakers, especially following a pandemic year with trillions in federal relief spending that sent deficits and debt soaring.

Sen. Joe Manchin (WV), a key vote in a closely divided Senate, repeated his belief Tuesday that the package must include sufficient revenues. “Everything should be paid for,” he said. “How much more debt can y’all handle?”

Other Democrats say they don’t think every cost needs to be covered by new revenues. “My view is that some of that one-time infrastructure spending doesn’t need to be offset dollar for dollar,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reportedly thinks he can find roughly $3.5 trillion in revenues. “It is not going to be easy, but it is certainly going to be worth it,” Schumer said Monday. “The federal government has not made a significant stand-alone investment in infrastructure in decades.”

Despite concerns, Democrats are determined: New inflation data released Tuesday showing that inflation rose 5.4% from a year earlier has added to concerns about the size of the reconciliation package. But Democrats are still pushing ahead, seeing this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the trajectory of the country.

“The most important thing is we go big,” Senate Banking Chair Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told Politico. “The public wants us to go big. We make a difference for a generation on some of these issues.”