Democrats are eyeing a massive $6 trillion spending plan that goes far beyond roads and bridges to include core party priorities, from lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 and adding dental, vision, and hearing benefits to incorporating a long-running effort to provide legal status for illegal immigrants currently in the United States, including “Dreamers.”
The Senate is preparing a draft budget document, alongside one in the House, that puts a new focus on President Joe Biden’s big legislative proposal and shows the scope of how far Democrats would go with their solo approach, separate from any possible bipartisan deal.
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Back from his overseas trip, Biden is reengaging with Congress as the administration and its allies on Capitol Hill embark on a two-pronged strategy: reviewing a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan plan from a group of 21 moderate senators, including 11 Republicans, while also pursuing their own, much larger spending package.
Only half of the total in the $6 trillion plan would be paid for, largely with Biden’s proposed taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Details emerging Thursday were confirmed by aides who were not authorized to publicly discuss private deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity. Initial Senate votes are expected in July.
“We have an enormous amount of work in front of us,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said after making a closed-door presentation to colleagues late Wednesday.
Sanders, I-Vt., would not disclose details. But he claimed the massive spending bill was needed to “address the crisis facing working families, to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, to deal with climate change, to deal with the needs of children and parents to deal with the affordable housing crisis.”
Biden is hoping for a deal with Republicans who are resisting and want to trim the potential spending, but he also is trying to assure liberal allies that he will not leave behind their main priorities. The strategy is for Democrats to go as far they can with Republicans and then tackle the rest on their own — and those are serious political and legislative challenges.
On Thursday, Biden was expected to be reviewing the latest bipartisan offering, a nearly $1 trillion proposal from the group of 21 senators. That 11 are Republicans shows the potential for an agreement in the evenly split Senate that could theoretically reach the 60-vote threshold needed to advance bills.
Scaled back from Biden’s initial ideas, the bipartisan proposal still offers about $579 billion in new spending, including $110 billion on roads and highways, $66 billion on passenger and freight rail, and $48 billion on public transit, according a Republican who requested anonymity to discuss it. An additional $47 billion would go toward efforts to fight climate change and there is money for electric vehicle charging stations.
The senators’ group suggests tapping $120 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief money and $315 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program, created to help businesses pay workers during the coronavirus lockdowns. The senators also want to go after tax dodgers by bolstering the IRS.
One source of contention is over raising gas taxes by linking future increases to inflation. It’s an idea that many other Democrats oppose. The bipartisan group is also considering a fee on electric vehicle users.
For his plan, Biden has proposed a sharp increase on taxes on corporations, from 21% to 28%. He also wants to increase taxes on wealthy Americans — moves that Republicans flatly oppose.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made it clear Thursday there will almost certainly be a second bill from Democrats, regardless of whether a bipartisan deal is reached. She panned the effort to increase the tax consumers that pay at the gas pump.
“I don’t think the American people, America’s working families should be footing the bill for roads and bridges and the rest that America’s wealthiest people and businesses are using,” she said.
Together, the $1.7 trillion American Jobs Plan and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan make up a wish-list of Democratic priorities that most Republicans say are far beyond reasonable spending.
The Associated Press contributed to this article