Senate Democrats Consider $6 Trillion Go-It-Alone Package

Senate Democrats are discussing a $6 trillion budget package that would bypass Republican opposition, with about half of it paid for.

A Democratic package expanding on President Joe Biden’s $4 trillion jobs and family plans would avoid a Republican filibuster via the fast-track budget process known as reconciliation, but would require the party to be united in both the House and the Senate.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders has been advocating for a robust budget effort. He told reporters that he is seeking a $6 trillion plan that would include Biden’s jobs and family proposals as well as other items like expanding Medicare, including lowering the age, and reining in prescription drug prices.

”We’ve got to deal with the structural problems facing America,” he told reporters. “Now is the time to do that.”

Sanders and Democrats on the committee discussed moving forward with the fast-track process Wednesday with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. But it’s not clear yet whether Democrats will be able hold together to pass a multi-trillion-dollar plan, especially if it adds to the deficit.

The strategy is developing as a bipartisan Senate group is proposing a narrower $579 billion plan for some elements of Biden’s proposal. Schumer said earlier this week he’d like to pass a bipartisan infrastructure package as well as a budget blueprint teeing up a follow-on Democratic package next month.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth said Thursday he is “open” to a $6 trillion plan and had been informed by Sanders that he was planning to try to craft a larger economic package than Biden had proposed. He also said that he can accept only $3 trillion in measures to offsetting spending. The House Budget Committee will try to hold votes on its own budget blueprint the week of July 12, he said, with the full House voting the following week. That timeline could set up action in Congress on a follow-on reconciliation bill implementing the budget’s instructions in the fall after the August recess.

House Congressional Progressive Caucus leader Pramila Jayapal has called for a $6 trillion to $10 trillion package and welcomed the Senate expanding its ambitions for a budget bill.

“That is right in our range,” she said. “We are coordinating closely with Bernie”

She expected the extra money would be spent on more generous childcare, paid leave, and Medicare expansion with some of the new cost offset by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. “This is going to help stabilize the economy” she said.

However Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, a member of the Budget Committee, sounded a note of skepticism about the plan, saying $6 trillion may be “the proverbial bridge too far.”

“But I’m going to go into this as an open-minded negotiation,” Warner said. “I do realize we’ve got to find a way to get a big group to yes on infrastructure and all Democrats to yes on reconciliation.”

Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen, who also is on the Budget panel, said that key to getting Democrats to accept the $6 trillion proposal will be how its paid for. He said that a millionaire surtax, prescription drug price negotiations, and immigration reform could be added as revenue sources.

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