Here are the key parts of Democrats’ $3.5T budget resolution

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) leave Schumer’s office after a meeting on Monday, August 9, 2021 as the Senate works on the budget resolution for FY 2022.
Greg Nash

Senate Democrats on Monday unveiled a $3.5 trillion budget resolution they aim to pass without Republican support, paving the way for boosting spending in a number of key areas in line with the president’s legislative agenda through a process called reconciliation. 

Democrats say the massive spending framework would unlock funding for universal pre-K and tuition-free community college while making investments in public housing and clean energy efforts and expanding health care. 

The budget resolution greenlights funding for those priorities and lets Democrats pass them later this year in a spending package they’ll be able to advance along party lines — as long as Democrats don’t have defections in the House and Senate.

In the Senate, Democrats must keep all 50 members together, including centrists who have already balked at the $3.5 trillion price tag. In the House, Democrats also have a slim majority.

Republicans will oppose the measure unanimously and argue the spending is irresponsible. They are also criticizing the process used for moving the measure as shutting them out. It is the same budget process used to pass the Trump tax cut bill, which also added to the deficit.

Senate Democrats hope to pass the resolution this week after the upper chamber passes the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill it moved to end debate on the day before

Below are some of the key areas the newly released budget framework would approve spending for.

​​Tax hikes on wealthy individuals, corporations

The Democrats’ budget resolution would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations while pledging to provide tax relief for middle-class families. 

The specifics of the Democrats’ tax increases will be worked out by congressional committees. Biden has called on Congress to raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who will wield significant influence over tax changes, said in a statement Monday that his panel is “working on a menu of options” for Democrats to consider. Those include Wyden’s plan to raise taxes on multinational corporations and remove tax provisions that incentivize outsourcing. 

Tax increases and international tax proposals will face vigorous opposition from business lobbying groups, which hailed the absence of tax hikes in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

Democrats say their proposed tax hikes won’t impact middle-class families. Their plans would prohibit new taxes on small businesses, family farms and families making less than $400,000 annually, fulfilling a Biden campaign promise. 

Their plans also call for the extension of tax credits for families and low-income individuals, including the child tax credit, which provides millions of families with monthly checks of up to $300 per child.

In a letter to Democratic lawmakers Monday, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the reconciliation bill “will provide the largest tax cut for American families in a generation, while making the wealthy pay their fair share.”

Democrats say tax hikes will provide the primary source of funding for their resolution’s spending, though they would also include increased funding for the IRS to boost tax enforcement, a measure that was stripped out of the bipartisan infrastructure bill amid Republican opposition.

Major health care expansions 

Democrats said the budget will provide funding for a slew of big health care moves, from adding Medicare benefits to lowering drug prices.  

One of the top priorities of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other progressives is set to be included: adding dental, hearing and vision benefits to Medicare.

However, the final package is not expected to include another progressive priority: lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60, which is more politically fraught and opens up debate about “Medicare for All.”  

Democrats said the reconciliation package will include measures to have the federal government step in and provide health coverage in the 12 GOP-led states that have declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), though the exact mechanism for doing so remains to be seen. 

The measure is also expected to extend enhanced ACA subsidies that help lower people’s premiums, which were provided for two years in the American Rescue Plan earlier this year. 

The package will fund care for elderly people at home, known as “home and community-based services,” and create a paid family and medical leave benefit, Democrats said in a list of top-line items for the fiscal 2022 plan.

Helping pay for it all is “hundreds of billions” of dollars in savings from lowering prescription drug costs, Democrats also said. The exact amount of savings is not yet clear as Senate Democrats look to craft a measure that can satisfy both moderates and progressives. 

“If Democrats are able to accomplish all these goals in the budget resolution released today, it would be the biggest reform of the healthcare system since the Affordable Care Act passed more than a decade ago,” tweeted Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Universal pre-K and tuition-free community college 

With the new framework, Democrats are aiming to put funding toward securing universal education for children ages 3 and 4 years old as well as making community college free for up to two years.

The proposal addresses a budget priority for the president, who has pushed for both items in recent months, in addition to funding for child care for low-income families and for a paid leave program. 

The resolution outlined an instruction of $726 billion for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for the recommended funding.

Other recommended policy items outlined for the committee include increasing the maximum Pell Grant award and putting investments toward historically Black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities.  

Immigration and a pathway to citizenship

The budget resolution will pave the way for Democrats to include investments in border security and provide a pathway for citizenship in their spending plan.   

The resolution outlines $107 billion to be allocated to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Democrats are planning to use the funding for “smart and effective border security measures” as well as the “lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants,” according to a memo sent to Democratic senators outlining what will be in the spending package they’ll try to pass later this year.   

The budget resolution and memo on the separate spending package doesn’t offer specific language on which groups will be included in the latter item. It also does not include a hard figure for the number of people the instruction pertains to.

In recent weeks, Democrats have weighed including immigration reform in the reconciliation package. The party has faced increased pressure to do so after a court ruling late last month blocked new applicants to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The idea has faced sharp blowback from Republicans voicing opposition to the proposal.

Biden expressed support for a pathway for citizenship days after the court ruling last month, though, at the time, the president said it remained to “be seen” if it could be included in the reconciliation package.

However, Senate Democrats indicated days ahead of the resolution’s unveiling that Biden supported making the citizenship pathway a part of the spending measure. 

“He made it clear to us, unequivocally clear, that he stands with our efforts,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said this past week.

Months back, the House passed legislation that would provide “Dreamers” with a pathway to citizenship as well as some migrant farm workers. But the legislation has since hit a roadblock in the upper chamber.

Infrastructure and jobs

The budget framework would allow for spending Senate Democrats have touted as “game-changing” investments in infrastructure and job programs as lawmakers continue to work to steer the nation’s economic recovery amid the pandemic.

Those investments include what Democrats said in a memo would lead to a “historic level” of funding for public housing, green and sustainable housing, housing production and affordability, and workforce development and job training programs. 

Democrats also recommended funding for “green cards to millions of immigrant workers and families” in the memo as well what they said would be the “largest ever one-time investment in Native American infrastructure projects.”

Other investments also outlined in the memo of recommended instructions would go toward rehabilitating “aging Veterans Administration buildings and hospitals.”

Schumer told Democratic senators in a “Dear Colleague” letter early Monday that, with the investments in infrastructure, Congress could “create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.”

At the resolution’s core, Schumer said the “legislation is about restoring the middle class in the 21st Century and giving more Americans the opportunity to get there.” 

The measure does not include a hike to the debt ceiling, something else Congress will need to do soon. Democrats argue that both parties should back raising the debt ceiling since both parties have contributed policies that have added to the deficit.

Republicans on Monday criticized Democrats for the spending and for expecting Republicans to separately provide votes to raise the debt ceiling. 

“Here’s the comedy: They won’t let Republicans have any say in this monstrosity… but they want our help raising their credit card limit to make it happen,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement on Monday.

Democrats said the framework would open the door to spending for a number of climate and energy provisions, including a proposed $67 billion for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and $198 billion for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Energy Committee provisions in a list of top-line items Democrats said the resolution will allow for include a clean electricity payment program, domestic clean energy manufacturing financing, climate research and hard rock mining. 

Democrats also aim to include funding in the coming package for Interior Department programs, a decision hailed by environmentalist groups after those programs were initially set to be excluded.

On the Environment and Public Works Committee end, Democrats are also looking to fund clean vehicle technology, Environmental Protection Agency climate and research programs, and environmental justice investments such as clean water access and port health. 

Other environmental and energy priorities Democrats outlined include funds for a Civilian Climate Corps under the umbrella of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and a carbon polluter import fee under the Finance Committee.

Tags Bernie Sanders Chuck Schumer Dick Durbin Mitch McConnell Ron Wyden

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