Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders finally revealed a blueprint for the most ambitious federal budget in decades, $3.5 trillion in new spending and targeted tax breaks that would transform the United States’ approach to everything from climate change to education. After more than 14 hours of debate on various nonbinding amendments—the so-called vote-a-rama process—it passed along party lines, opening the door for Democrats to hash out the details.
If passed in a form anywhere near what the resolution lays out, this budget would significantly improve the lives of millions of American families.
It would amount to what Sanders calls “the most consequential piece of legislation for working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor since FDR and the New Deal of the 1930s.” Here’s what you need to know.
What does the package contain?
Medicare would be expanded to include dental, vision, and hearing care.
A Civilian Climate Corps would be assembled to complete projects that would ameliorate the effects of global warming.
American workers would get paid family and sick leave, benefits enjoyed in every other country in the developed world.
The budget would also limit what working families pay for childcare to seven percent of their income, a change that could allow more people to go to work and contribute to the economy.
The resolution also contains measures designed to address homelessness and unaffordable housing prices.
These changes would be funded through tax increases on corporations and the rich, increased enforcement of tax laws, bigger fees on polluters, and savings on prescription drug spending that come with requiring Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies—changes that these wealthy, connected interests are sure to fight tooth and nail.
Will this budget actually pass?
The budget also includes some measures—a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and more robust enforcement of labor laws among them—that go beyond what the budget reconciliation process has been used for in recent years. That could put them on a collision course with the Senate parliamentarian, whose non-binding rulings were treated as gospel by Democratic leadership the last time reconciliation was used, earlier in Biden’s term.
But even if they don’t run into any parliamentary hurdles, the final version of the budget is not going to be exactly what is in this blueprint. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a letter to his colleagues coinciding with the release of this document, promised that “every Senator will have opportunities to shape and influence the final reconciliation bill after adoption of the Budget Resolution.”
And getting Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, two Democratic senators who have shown no compunction about slowing down the legislative process for conservative ends in recent months, to sign on to the bill could be as tricky as it is necessary, particularly when the bill also has to satisfy Sanders and his more progressive allies.
What happens next?
Schumer’s so-called two-track strategy — where the “hard infrastructure” package that includes funding for roads and trains is passed separately from the “human infrastructure package,” the $3.5 trillion package just proposed, is coming together.
Nearly 70 Senators voted to advance the debate on the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Sunday night, which is sure to pass, paving the way for a Senate vote on the $1 trillion package at around 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning. That will push it to the House, where a vote is not expected until the budget reconciliation process in the Senate is complete despite the request of a half-dozen conservative Democrats to have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bring it up for a vote swiftly.
No GOP support is expected for the $3.5 trillion package, which reflects Democrats’ belief that human infrastructure should be considered as vital as roads and bridges—a belief that Republicans view with disdain. That’s why they’re using the budget reconciliation process, which requires a simple majority instead of 60 votes, in the first place.
And while there is certainly a delicate set of intraparty negotiations ahead, not having to secure any GOP support makes the prospect of passing such a budget possible—and perhaps even likely. Because while conservative Dems likely aren’t wild about spending this much money—and being painted as fiscally irresponsible in subsequent elections—they also know that sinking a massive priority of their congressional leadership and president means making a lot of enemies they’ll need to preserve their political futures.
And if you’re a working parent who can suddenly pay less for childcare, sending your kid to pre-K, and take paid family and medical leave, it won’t really matter how this budget is passed. Whether it’s passed is what’s actually important, and the progress of the bipartisan deal and the introduction of this budget reconciliation blueprint are huge steps toward improving the lives of millions of parents and their kids.