Senate Democrats unveiled a budget resolution Monday that maps $3.5 trillion in spending boosts and tax breaks aimed at strengthening social and environmental programs, setting up an autumn battle over President Joe Biden's domestic policy ambitions.
The measure lays the groundwork for legislation later this year that over a decade would pour mountains of federal resources into their top priorities. Included would be more money for health care, education, family services and environmental programs and tax breaks for families, with much of it paid for with tax increases on the rich and corporations.
"As chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, I am proud to introduce a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, that we will soon be considering, I expect, tomorrow," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said on the Senate Floor Monday.
Sanders called the bill "most consequential piece of legislation for working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor since FDR and the New Deal."
"Sen. [Mitch] McConnell, things are changing," Sanders said, addressing the Senate's Minority Leader. "For once, in a very long time, the United States Congress is going to stand with working families and not just the rich and the powerful."
Democrats have paired their budget measure with the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which will inject billions of dollars into traditional infrastructure projects, including reparing roads and bridges, expanding broadband internet access and replacing lead pipes
The measure’s introduction marks the start of a long legislative trek through Congress of legislation that Democrats hope will result this fall in a progressive reshaping of government. To succeed, they’ll have to overcome likely unanimous Republican opposition and find the sweet spot between the demands of their own often antagonist progressive and moderate factions.
“At its core, this legislation is about restoring the middle class in the 21st Century and giving more Americans the opportunity to get there,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a letter to his colleagues that unveiled the plan.
The resolution calls for creating free pre-Kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds and and two years of free community college; extending tax breaks for children and some low-income workers; and establishing paid family and sick leave.
Medicare coverage would be expanded to cover dental, hearing and vision benefits. Spending would increase for housing, home health care and job training, and new resources would go to efforts encouraging a faster transition to clean energy.
Schumer pledged on the Senate floor Monday that this budget measure "will do more to combat climate change than any legislation ever, ever, in the history of the Senate."
"That is a promise," he added.
Sanders said that the bill will "put the U.S. in a global leadership position to combat climate change and make our planet healthy and habitable for future generations, while creating millions of good paying jobs as we address the long-neglected needs of working families and saving the planet."
The plan also includes:
- Funding for smart technology for safe and efficient borders for trade, travel and migration
- Establishing the first ever Civilian Climate Corps
- Providing clean energy, manufacturing and transportation tax incentives and grants
- Funding for "lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants"
- SALT cap relief
To pay for the plans, taxes would be raised on wealthy people and large corporations, without any increases on people earning under $400,000 a year, a key Biden campaign pledge.
"At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, we will end the days of billionaires and large, profitable corporations not paying a nickel in federal income taxes," Sanders wrote on Twitter. "Yes. We will finally ask the very wealthy and largest corporations to pay their fair share of taxes."
"Under this budget, however, no family making under $400,000 a year will pay a penny more in taxes and will, in fact, receive one of the largest tax cuts in American history," the Vermont progressive added.
The budget also calls for reducing the prices the federal government pays for pharmaceuticals it buys for Medicare recipients, a long-time goal of Democrats who want the government to be allowed to negotiate those prices.
Notably, the bill does not include an increase to the debt limit, setting up a showdown in Congress as Republicans have threatened to refuse to vote for a hike.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday urged lawmakers to pass an increase to the debt limit in bipartisan fashion.
“As I said in my letter to Congress on July 23rd, increasing or suspending the debt limit does not increase government spending, nor does it authorize spending for future budget proposals; it simply allows Treasury to pay for previously enacted expenditures," Yellen wrote in a statement. "Failure to meet those obligations would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. economy and the livelihoods of all Americans."
"In recent years Congress has addressed the debt limit through regular order, with broad bipartisan support," Yellen added. "In fact, during the last administration, Democrats and Republicans came together to do their duty three times."
"Congress should do so again now by increasing or suspending the debt limit on a bipartisan basis," Yellen concluded. "The vast majority of the debt subject to the debt limit was accrued prior to the Administration taking office. This is a shared responsibility, and I urge Congress to come together on a bipartisan basis as it has in the past to protect the full faith and credit of the United States."
McConnell, however, signaled that no such compromise will be reached.
"Our friends across the aisle should not expect traditional bipartisan borrowing to finance their nontraditional reckless taxing and spending spree," the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor Monday. "That’s not how this works."
"Democrats have all the existing tools they need to raise the debt limit on a partisan basis," he added. "If they want 50 lockstep Democratic votes to spend trillions and trillions more, they can find 50 Democratic votes to finance it."
"If they don’t want Republicans’ input, they don’t need our help," he concluded. "Our colleagues seem confident that Chairman Sanders’ vision is worth sticking our kids and grandkids with a massive bill. They deserve to have total ownership of that decision."
McConnell's press secretary signaled on Twitter earlier Monday that Democrats can amend their resolution to add an increase to the debt limit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.