The U.S. Senate has set a Tuesday vote on passage of a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that is one of President Joe Biden’s top priorities, and then will immediately begin to debate a more far-reaching $3.5 trillion bill.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced late on Monday that a week-long debate on the bipartisan bill will conclude at 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) Tuesday when a vote is held on passage, which is expected.
The Senate is then expected to vote to begin debate of the larger bill here – a budget blueprint that is a key goal for progressive Democrats.
Documents unveiled earlier on Monday showed that it would set the stage for legislation later this year providing tax incentives for “clean” manufacturing, making community college free for two years and providing a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrant workers.
The budget plan also envisions new federal aid for social programs, including home healthcare for the elderly.
The first bill here, which is 2,702 pages, sits atop Biden’s domestic agenda and includes $550 billion in new spending on roads, bridges and internet access.
“This is a very good day. We have come to an agreement after all the long, hard negotiating,” a smiling Schumer said of Tuesday’s vote.
The $1 trillion infrastructure bill is popular among many lawmakers in both parties because of the federal dollars it would deliver to their home states. Polls also show that Americans at large are supportive of it.
Democrats are aiming to debate and pass the nonbinding $3.5 trillion resolution in coming days, which would serve as a framework for more detailed, binding legislation later this year. Republicans have strenuously objected to the size and cost of the follow-up package, which Democrats aim to pass without their votes through a process called “budget reconciliation.
The ambitious goals of the $3.5 trillion budget plan will be reviewed by the Senate parliamentarian, who has the power to strip out provisions found to be at odds with Senate rules. The full Senate could, however, vote to overrule such decisions.
That wide-ranging bill would include about $726 billion to provide universal preschool for 3- and 4-year olds as well as free community college, $332 billion for affordable housing and $198 billion for clean energy.
A Democratic memo said the $3.5 trillion cost would be fully paid for by a combination of tax increases, savings in federal health-care programs and projected long-term economic growth. The latter claim is debated by many economists who often disagree over the accuracy of the economic impact stemming from new policies enacted by Washington.
There would be no tax increases for those making under $400,000 a year, Democrats said.
The tax increases, which already have been previewed by the Biden administration and Senate Democrats, would hit high-income earners and be coupled with beefed-up IRS tax enforcement. The measure also calls for a “carbon polluter import fee.”
The plan would extend a new, expanded child tax credit that progressives wanted to make permanent. And it would provide “relief” to tax filers bumping up against a cap on a state and local tax deduction tightened by a 2017 Republican-backed tax law.
Still unclear was whether Democrats will attach a debt limit increase to the reconciliation bill that will be developed in coming weeks or seek another way of raising Washington’s nearly exhausted borrowing authority. The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, has said his party will not vote for raising the debt limit.
“Democrats want Republicans to help them raise the debt limit so they can keep spending historic sums of money with zero Republican input and zero Republican votes,” McConnell said. “So our friends across the aisle should not expect traditional bipartisan borrowing to finance their non-traditional, reckless taxing and spending spree. That’s not how it’s going to work.”
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday again urged Congress to take quick action in a bipartisan way.
Passing any major legislation is difficult given the 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, with Democrats claiming a majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives.
If the $1 trillion bill is approved by the Senate, as expected, the House would still have to debate and vote on it, sometime after it returns in late September from its summer break.