Democrats’ Deadline for $3.5 Trillion Budget, Tax Deal to Slip
(Bloomberg) -- Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, the lead negotiator on a partisan $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, said Wednesday that Democrats didn’t yet have the necessary 50 votes to pass it.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had set a Wednesday deadline for an agreement on the top line spending levels of the budget deal, which is the legislative underpinning for much of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. Democrats can spare no defections in the 50-50 Senate, and several senators are not yet on board with the $3.5 trillion negotiated by Budget Committee members.
Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, and Maryland Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen acknowledged that Schumer’s deadline would slip.
Their comments come just hours before the Senate is expected to defeat a procedural vote on a separate $579 billion infrastructure plan, for which Schumer, a New York Democrat, wanted to begin debate Wednesday. Progressive Democrats in the House have said they won’t support the infrastructure plan until there’s an agreement on the larger budget package, which under Senate rules can get through the chamber with only Democratic support.
Sanders said that he hoped the budget proposal could be ready for a floor vote “by early August.”
The budget plan would open the way to legislation offering a bevy of new social benefits, including universal pre-kindergarten; two free years of community college; Medicare coverage of dental, vision and hearing care; and extended child tax credits. It would impose new energy standards on utilities, legalize some undocumented immigrants and grant unions new rights -- all paid for by the largest corporate and individual tax increases in decades, a carbon tariff and cuts to the prices Medicare pays for drugs.
“We are talking every day. We are talking to different members,” Sanders said, adding that there are “50 different members and 50 different sets of priorities.”
Much of the focus of the budget negotiations has been on West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and other moderates who have concerns about the price tag and how the government would pay for its expansive programs.
Manchin said Wednesday he has not yet met with Sanders on the budget resolution.
“We haven’t gotten there yet. “ he said, adding he plans to talk to him once negotiations on the bipartisan infrastructure bill are completed.
In an evenly divided Senate, every member of the Democratic caucus has significant sway in the negotiations.
Van Hollen, who sits on the budget committee, said talks were “moving forward.”
“I think we are close,” he added.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.