Senate Democrats settle on $3.5 trillion for reconciliation bill

A group of Senate Democrats announced late Tuesday they had reached a tentative agreement on a massive spending plan worth $3.5 trillion over the next decade.

The budget resolution, which Democrats will attempt to ram through the Senate with 51 votes via the parliamentary maneuver of reconciliation, is expected to be paired with a bipartisan infrastructure bill worth $1.2 trillion over eight years.

“The [Senate] Budget Committee has come to an agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters. “The budget resolution with instructions will be $3.5 trillion. Every major program that President Biden has asked us for is funded in a robust way.”

Schumer announced the agreement following a two-hour evening meeting that capped weeks of bargaining among party leaders, progressives and moderates.

Fort Point Channel surrounds the Northern Avenue Bridge as seen from the Evelyn Moakley Bridge on Seaport Boulevard looking toward the Boston harbor on May 28, 2019
Boston’s Northern Avenue Bridge sits empty and rusting, as it has for nearly five years since being closed for safety reasons.
Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has insisted for weeks that she will not bring the bipartisan legislation to the floor for a vote until the Senate passes a larger bill which is expected to include massive spending on social care programs and efforts to counter the effects of climate change. The budget resolution sets only broad spending and revenue parameters, leaving specific decisions about which programs are affected — and by how much — for later.

“We are very proud of this plan,” Schumer told reporters. “We know we have a long road to go. We’re going to get this done for the sake of making average Americans’ lives a whole lot better.”

The majority leader added that Biden himself would lunch with Senate Democrats Wednesday “to lead us on to getting this wonderful plan” enacted and noted that it includes expansion of Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing services, long a priority of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi insisted that she will not bring the bipartisan legislation to the floor for a vote until the Senate passes a larger bill.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Elsewhere in the Senate, members from both parties worked to hammer out final details of the bipartisan bill, which Schumer has said he wants on the floor next week. Nearly two dozen senators involved in the effort met for more than three hours.

Republicans and moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia have expressed concern over how the spending in both bills should be paid for, with Manchin telling Politico earlier Tuesday: “I don’t think we need more debt.”

Members of the bipartisan group suggested Tuesday they hadn’t so much resolved the questions over how to pay for the package as moved past them — apparently accepting that some of the proposed revenue streams may not pass muster in formal assessments by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Manchin said Tuesday night that he hoped the CBO assessment — or “score” as it’s known — would show that “everything’s paid for. If not, we’ll have to make some adjustments.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a key negotiator in the infrastructure talks, is surrounded by reporters as walks through the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key negotiator in the infrastructure talks, is surrounded by reporters as he walks through the Capitol in Washington on July 13, 2021.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Sources told The Post that the initial plan is to pay for the larger spending package with increases to the corporate tax rate. That could be an issue for Manchin, who has previously balked at making the rate too high. With the Senate split 50-50, Democrats cannot afford to lose a single member of their caucus.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said the measure would be fully paid for with offsetting revenue but provided no detail.

Sanders called the agreement “a pivotal moment in American history” and vowed that “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.”

With Post wires

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