Schumer urges Democrats to unify amid divisions on Biden spending plan

Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, August 11, 2021 to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget resolution as the Senate leaves for the August district work period.
Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is pushing Democrats to unify amid high-profile divisions that are threatening to bog down President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan.

“Everyone, everyone is going to have input into this legislation. But of course our unity is our strength and if we’re not unified with 50 votes we can’t get anything done so we all must come together,” Schumer said on Tuesday.

He added that Democrats are making “great progress” toward having a bill ready to go to the floor.

Schumer’s comments come as Democrats are facing deep splits over Biden’s plan, including how big to go, how to pay for it and structuring long-held policy goals they want to include in the bill.

Because Democrats are using budget rules to pass the spending bill without GOP support, they need total unity in the Senate.

Progressives including Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) view the $3.5 trillion top-line figure as the floor of how low they think Democrats should go.

But moderates in both chambers have raised concerns about the spending and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have said they can’t support a $3.5 trillion price tag.

Senate Democrats are set to meet as a caucus on Tuesday, where committee chairs tasked with drafting pieces of the bill will discuss their proposals with all 50 members.

“Later today, our caucus will discuss the latest elements of the reconciliation bill. Working with our colleagues in the House, we will have met the target date of Sept. 15 set in the budget resolution for producing text to review,” Schumer said.

Democrats had set a soft deadline for Wednesday for Senate committees to submit their pieces of the spending bill.

Asked if Schumer was saying Senate committees had submitted their pieces of the spending bill, a spokesman for the majority leader noted that senators had been working with their House counterparts, who are set to meet their Sept. 15 deadline for holding committee votes on pieces of the bill.

But there are splits among House and Senate Democrats that need to be resolved, including how to pay for the bill and policy specifics like when Medicare would start covering dental care.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters on Monday afternoon that a handful of Senate committees had worked out deals with their House counterparts at that point.

Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, added that his panel would not have a final draft until the language on immigration reform had been approved by the parliamentarian.

Democrats are hoping to get a plan to provide green cards for 8 million immigrants including Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status holders, agricultural and other essential workers into the $3.5 trillion spending plan.

“The language coming out of our Judiciary Committee is being vetted through the parliamentarian’s office, so we are not prepared to do any final draft until we get that work done,” he said.

Tags $3.5 trillion spending bill Bernie Sanders Chuck Schumer Dick Durbin Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema

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