Senators Start Moving on Democrat-Only Bill for Biden’s Agenda

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Senate Democrats say they are moving ahead with a drive to pass portions of President Joe Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda without GOP support, even as the White House eyes talks with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on infrastructure spending.

Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders said Tuesday he would begin work soon on a fiscal blueprint that could set the stage for later legislation incorporating key portions of Biden’s agenda, like childcare, climate change, expanded health care and other provisions that could clear the 50-50 Senate with only the backing of Democrats.

“I do not see any indication that Republicans are prepared to support the kind of serious legislation this country needs,” the Vermont independent told reporters. He added that Biden “has given us an outline of a very significant way forward to protect working families.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also said Democrats are ready to follow “two paths” -- one being a piece of bipartisan infrastructure legislation if a deal is struck, and the other a much broader Democrat-only measure that dramatically expands social spending in the U.S.

The moves came the same day Biden ended talks with Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican, about an infrastructure plan, after a failure to reach agreement on the scope of spending or how to pay for it.

Democratic leaders have conceded they don’t yet know if they have the support of all 50 of their caucus members to proceed with either the so-called budget resolution outlining fiscal goals or the broader economic package that would follow.

It would take a simple majority to clear either measure, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote. But at least two Democrats -- Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona -- have indicated they want bipartisan solutions.

Schumer had signaled growing impatience with the slow-going talks between Biden and Capito, saying they “seem to be running into a brick wall.”

The New York Democrat expressed more confidence in other bipartisan talks in the Senate, being led by Sinema and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, but he said anything they could come up with still won’t be enough.

‘Boldness’ Vital

“It may well be that part of the bill that will pass will be bipartisan and part of it will be through reconciliation,” Schumer said. “But we’re not going to sacrifice the bigness and boldness in this bill. We will just pursue two paths and at some points they will join.”

For his part, Sanders said he would likely adjust Biden’s proposals to add more funding than the president is seeking to lower carbon emissions.

Biden has proposed the $2.25 trillion, infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan that focuses on social programs.

Asked when he wants to advance an economic package intended to side-step the Senate filibuster, Sanders responded, “as soon as we can.”

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