‘A Big Deal,’ Says Sanders as Dems Agree to Pursue a $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Bill

Common Dreams – By Jake Johnson – July 14, 2021

The Senate Democratic leadership agreed late Tuesday to push for a $3.5 trillion legislative package that includes substantial investments in green energy, an expansion of Medicare benefits, universal pre-K, and other priorities, funded by tax hikes on the rich and large corporations.

Speaking to reporters late Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—chair of the Senate Budget Committee—celebrated the spending framework as “a big deal” that will begin the process of addressing glaring inequities in the U.S. economy and transitioning the nation’s energy system away from planet-warming fossil fuels.

“This is, in our view, a pivotal moment in American history,” said Sanders, who characterized the new agreement as “the most significant piece of legislation… since the Great Depression.”

“The wealthy and large corporations are going to start paying their fair share of taxes, so that we can protect the working families of this country,” the Vermont senator continued. “What this legislation does is says we’re going to create millions of good-paying union jobs rebuilding this country not only from physical infrastructure, but dealing with the human needs of our people which are many, and which have long been neglected.”

The deal outlined by Senate Democratic leaders on Tuesday sets the stage for the construction of a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which will establish the spending boundaries for an eventual legislative package that Democrats intend to pass through reconciliation—an arcane process that requires just a simple-majority vote. Democrats in the House and Senate hope to pass a budget resolution before leaving town for August recess.

Approval of a budget resolution will kick off a contentious fight over the details of the reconciliation package, which is aimed at addressing the major shortcomings of a $579 billion bipartisan infrastructure deal that the White House endorsed last month. Democrats plan to pursue passage of the reconciliation bill and the bipartisan package, which together amount to roughly $4 trillion in new spending, at the same time.

While the new Senate agreement is expected to contain many progressive priorities, House Democrats and outside advocacy groups are unlikely to be satisfied with the top-line figure. Sanders himself indicated Monday that he was not happy with the $3.5 trillion ceiling, which falls well short of the $6 trillion package that he was advocating.

Late last month, as Common Dreams reported, more than 200 progressive advocacy groups, think tanks, and labor unions said $6 trillion “should be the floor” of Democrats’ ambitions for the reconciliation bill. The youth-led Sunrise Movement, meanwhile, has been demanding at least $10 trillion in spending over the next decade to combat the climate crisis, whose impact is currently being felt across the U.S. and around the world in the form of record-shattering heatwaves, wildfires, and floods.

The details of the forthcoming reconciliation package—including how much Democrats want to spend on climate and other priorities within the confines of the $3.5 trillion framework—remain up in the air.

Schumer said Tuesday that the reconciliation bill will make “some additions” to the infrastructure and safety-net proposals that President Joe Biden unveiled earlier this year.

“Most important, something that Sen. Sanders has led, and convinced America is so important, which is a robust expansion of Medicare, including money for dental, vision, and hearing,” said Schumer.

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Posted by Teri Perticone

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