As infrastructure bill passes, Senate faces Dem’s new $3.5 trillion spending plan

By Casey Harper | The Center Square

Just moments after the U.S. Senate passed a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill and sent it to the House, Senate Democrats pivoted to a new spending item that is more than three times the cost and full of progressive priorities such as climate change and federal child care provisions.

The Senate passed the infrastructure bill with a bipartisan 69-30 vote Tuesday to acclaim from the president.

“I hope Congress will send it to my desk as soon as possible so we can continue our work of building back better,” President Joe Biden said in response to the bill’s passage.

Within minutes, Senate Democrats began work on a new, larger plan that is not expected to get Republican support.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released details of the plan earlier this week. He sent a letter to Democratic lawmakers informing them the goal is to finish legislation by mid-September, after the August recess. Schumer is expected to approve a budget resolution this week that directs the relevant committees to draft legislation, with the goal of it being completed by Sept. 15.

“When we took the majority in the Senate earlier this year, the American people entrusted us with a great responsibility: to make their lives better,” Schumer wrote in the letter. “I am happy to report that we are making great progress towards that goal.”

The bill contains a laundry list of spending items, each with considerable sums behind them, from universal pre-kingdergarten to green energy spending to public housing to addressing forest fires. Republicans have called out what appears to be an amnesty workaround for illegal immigrants, though it will not be entirely clear until the bill text is released.

To pay for it, Democrats have proposed tax increases on corporations and wealthier Americans while beefing up IRS auditing. More details of the spending package will be worked out as legislation is drafted and then amended in the relevant committees.

“The most important investment we can make is in the children of this country,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. “That is exactly why we are going to make free pre-K for all working families a reality. That is exactly why we are going to finally join every other major country and guarantee paid family leave.”

Getting the bill passed without Republican votes will be a challenge. Short of nuking the filibuster, that process will likely involve the use of reconciliation, a budget procedure that allows spending measures to pass with a simple majority.

If Democrats take that path, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged he will not help Democrats raise the debt ceiling, due this year, which would handcuff the U.S. Treasury and likely mean a government shutdown. He also criticized Democrats plans for “Green New Deal mandates” and “amnesty amid a border crisis” as well as “massive tax hikes” and “new welfare without work requirements.”

“Senate Democrats are about to take their first step toward yet another reckless, partisan taxing and spending spree,” McConnell said Tuesday. “It will push costs even higher for families. It will shatter President Biden’s promise of no middle-class tax hikes.”

The bill details come as a new climate change report raised eyebrows Monday. The report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of nearly 200 governments, raised the alarm about the effects of climate change. The report said some of the effects are already irreversible and called for government action to rein in environmental harms.

“The IPCC is telling us what every sane person knows. Unless there is BOLD action to combat climate change, the planet we will be leaving our kids and future generations will be increasingly uninhabitable,” Sanders said. “Now is the time for action.”

Biden, though, continues to take fire for the major proposed increase in spending, and the elevated inflation levels that result from that spending.

Republicans have continued their strong criticism of the bill, indicating any Republican votes in favor will be hard won, if there are any at all. They have also indicated they will use the partisan bill against Democrats in 2022.

“Any vulnerable Democrat who votes for this socialist garbage will lose their seat in the midterms,” National Republican Congressional Committee Spokesman Mike Berg said.

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