A massive plan to expand social programs like Medicare, tackle climate change and fund pre-K and community college cleared its first hurdle in the Senate early on Wednesday. The passage of a budget resolution for the expansion kicked off an intricate process to pass a $3.5 trillion package that is a signature part of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
The resolution passed the Senate at just before 4 AM ET on a party line vote, 50-49.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the Senate passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, with 19 Republicans joining with all 50 Democrats and independents. That was a rare moment of bipartisanship for such a massive $1.2 trillion package, but that collaborative sentiment quickly gave way to Republicans’ united opposition to the larger $3.5 trillion budget resolution.
House members will return to D.C. the week of Aug. 23, which will make for a political high wire act as Democrats try to coalesce around both spending plans. If they were to ultimately pass, it would be a historic expansion of the social safety net, perhaps to an extent not seen since the 1960s, as well as a once-in-a-generation spending outlay for public works projects.
The budget resolution is basically a blueprint. Senate committees now will draw up details of the spending plan for a final package, which could then pass by simple majority. That process is expected to take until mid-September, but the potential flashpoints in the Democratic caucus were made clear just hours after the budget passage.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), among the swing votes in the Senate, issued a press release raising doubts about the price tag.
Although he voted to advance the budget resolution, he said, “The challenge we now face is different: millions of jobs remain unfilled across the country and rising inflation rates are now an unavoidable tax on the wages and income of every American. These are not indications of an economy that requires trillions in additional spending.”
Democrats are proposing to fund the plan in part via a boost in the corporate tax rate — something opposed by the business lobby, including Hollywood studios — and by increases on taxes for high income earners. Manchin opposes one proposal — to raise the corporate rate to 28%, from the current 21%. But he’s shown some willingness to up it to 25%.
To get to Wednesday’s passage of the budget resolution, Senators first were allowed to present amendments, a process that has come to be known as vote-a-rama. That meant more than 40 votes on various policies, with Republicans taking the opportunity to put Democrats on the record on issues like the Green New Deal, critical race theory and defunding the police.
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