(Headline USA) Democrats pushed a $3.5 trillion spending package through the Senate early Wednesday, advancing President Joe Biden’s expansive vision for an even larger, interventionist government just hours after handing him another hefty “infrastructure” package.
Lawmakers approved Democrats’ budget resolution on a party-line 50-49 vote. Higher taxes would pay for much of it. Passage came despite an avalanche of Republican amendments intended to make their rivals pay a price in next year’s elections for control of Congress.
“This madness has to stop,” said Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. “In addition to massively increasing the debt burden our children must bear, they will make more Americans dependent on government and firmly put us on the path of a socialist future. We must all awaken to the urgency of this moment and reject Democrats’ destructive policies.”
House leaders announced their chamber will return from summer recess in two weeks to vote on the fiscal blueprint, which contemplates disbursing the $3.5 trillion over the next decade. Final congressional approval, which seems certain, would protect a subsequent bill actually enacting the outline’s detailed spending and tax changes from a Republican filibuster in the 50-50 Senate, delays that would otherwise kill it.
Even so, passing that follow-up legislation will be dicey with party moderates wary of the massive $3.5 trillion price tag vying with progressives demanding aggressive action. The party controls the House with just three votes to spare, while the evenly divided Senate is theirs only due to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. Solid GOP opposition seems guaranteed.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a progressive voice in Congress’s wilderness and now a national figure wielding legislative clout, said the measure would help children, families, the elderly and working people — and more.
“It will also, I hope, restore the faith of the American people in the belief that we can have a government that works for all of us, and not just the few,” he said.
Republicans argued that Democrats’ proposals would waste money, raise economy-wounding taxes, fuel inflation and codify far-left dictates that would harm Americans. They cited the backing by Sanders, a self-avowed democratic socialist, to illustrate the extremism of the measure.
If Biden and Senate Democrats want to “outsource domestic policy to Chairman Sanders” with a “historically reckless taxing and spending spree,” Republicans lack the votes to stop them, conceded Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “But we will debate. We will vote.”
The Senate turned to the budget hours after it approved the other big chunk of Biden’s objectives, a compromise $1 trillion “infrastructure” package filled with other leftist priorities. That measure, passed 69-30 with McConnell among the 19 Republicans backing it, also needs House approval.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., assured progressives that Congress will pursue sweeping initiatives going beyond that infrastructure package.
“To my colleagues who are concerned that this does not do enough on climate, for families, and making corporations and the rich pay their fair share: We are moving on to a second track, which will make a generational transformation in these areas,” Schumer said.
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., missed the budget votes to be with his ailing wife.
In a budget ritual, senators plunged into a “vote-a-rama,” a nonstop parade of messaging amendments that often becomes a painful all-night ordeal. This time, the Senate held more than 40 roll calls by the time it approved the measure at around 4 a.m. EDT, more than 14 hours after the procedural wretchedness began.
With the budget resolution largely advisory, the goal of most amendments was not to win but to force the other party’s vulnerable senators to cast troublesome votes that can be used against them in next year’s elections for congressional control.
Republicans crowed after Democrats opposed GOP amendments calling for the full-time reopening of pandemic-shuttered schools and boosting the Pentagon’s budget and retaining limits on federal income tax deductions for state and local levies. They were also happy when Democrats showed support for Biden’s now suspended ban on oil and gas leasing on federal lands, which Republicans said would prompt gasoline price increases.
The budget blueprint envisions creating new programs including tuition-free pre-kindergarten and community college, paid family leave and a Civilian Climate Corps whose workers would tackle environmental projects. Millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally would potentially be granted amnesty.
Medicare would add dental, hearing and vision benefits, and tax credits and grants would prod utilities and industries to embrace “clean energy” boondoggles. Child tax credits beefed up for the pandemic would be extended, along with federal subsidies for health insurance.
Besides higher taxes, Democrats envision savings by letting the government negotiate prices for pharmaceuticals it buys, slapping taxes on imported carbon fuels and strengthening IRS tax collections. Democrats have said, without evidence, that their policies will be fully paid for, but they’ll make no final decisions until this fall’s follow-up bill.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.