Democrats take first step toward $3.5T spending plan

Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) arrives for a press conference after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, August 3, 2021.
Greg Nash

Senate Democrats took a first step on Tuesday toward passing a $3.5 trillion spending package later this year without GOP support.

The Senate voted 50-49 to take up a budget resolution that includes instructions on how to draft the spending package and greenlights it to bypass the 60-vote filibuster this fall. No Republicans voted to start the budget debate. 

The Senate is now expected to go through a lengthy, marathon session known as a vote-a-rama where any senator can force a vote on an amendment before Democrats can wrap up and pass the budget. Most of the amendments will be non-binding, but they let lawmakers hold messaging votes that could be used as campaign fodder next year.

The marathon sessions typically run through the night and into the early morning hours. Senators have floated that they could force up to 40 amendment votes, a slog that would likely keep the Senate in continuous session into Wednesday.

“I think there seems to be a growing consensus that we try to compress this into a relatively short period of time. Having said that, I think it’s going to be a late night and early morning,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), predicting the budget debate could wrap up around 2 a.m.

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said he expected “an onslaught of amendments.”

Even though the House has already left D.C. for its summer break, lawmakers are expected to return to pass the budget resolution. The measure doesn’t become law but is a necessary first step for passing the $3.5 trillion plan this year. 

Senate Democrats need total unity in their 50-member caucus to pass the budget resolution and subsequent bill.

Democratic leaders had voiced confidence that they would be unified on the budget resolution, but they are less certain about the eventual spending plan legislation. 

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has warned that she can’t support a bill with a $3.5 trillion price tag and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has expressed concerns about the debt. 

No Republicans are expected to support the budget resolution or the spending package later this year.

“What our colleagues are proposing and planning is absolutely jaw-dropping. People want to pretend this is just business as usual. Just liberals doing liberal things using Senate procedure. Make no mistake: This reckless taxing and spending spree is like nothing we’ve seen,” Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday.

–Updated at 1:03 p.m.

Tags budget resolution Dick Durbin Filibuster Joe Manchin John Cornyn Kyrsten Sinema Mitch McConnell Vote-A-Rama
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