- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Senate Republicans are forcing Democrats to take a public stand on some of their party’s most controversial issues during a marathon voting session on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion party-line “human infrastructure” spending bill. 

Republican senators have filed hundreds of amendments to a resolution needed to start drafting the multi-trillion-dollar package. Democrats, in a chamber divided 50-50, are planning to pass the package using the Senate’s budget reconciliation process, which allows spending measures to avoid the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster hurdle and pass with a simple majority of 51 votes, when Vice President Kamala Harris is able to cast the tie-breaking vote.

Since the $3.5 trillion package does not need GOP votes and is unlikely to garner them because of its substance, Republicans aim to make the process as painful as possible politically for Democrats. 

“Today the American people will learn exactly where each of their senators stand,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “We’re going to argue it out right here on the floor at some length. Every single senator will be going on record over and over and over.” 

A significant portion of the amendments are influenced by what’s set to be included within the package. 

Democrats have dubbed the $3.5 trillion bill “human infrastructure” in hopes of making it an easier sell to voters, a complement to the $1 trillion physical infrastructure bill that passed in the Senate on a bipartisan basis Tuesday. In reality, however, the legislation amounts to a wish list of liberal priorities — amnesty for illegal immigrants, free community college and a repeal of the Trump-era tax cuts, among others. 

“Today we move this country in a very different direction,” said Senate Budget Committee Bernard Sanders, a self-avowed socialist from Vermont who is responsible for crafting the package. “We will use [reconciliation] to help the working families of our country and not just the wealthy and the powerful.” 

Included within the $3.5 trillion package are new climate change regulations, specifically incentives for electric utilities to jettison coal and natural gas. Also included is funding for a “civilian climate corps” to put young Americans to work on green energy-related projects. Many Democrats see the spending package as a way to fulfill promises the party and candidate Joe Biden made to the electorate in winning the White House, Senate and House in last November’s election.

Republicans say both provisions show Democrats have adopted the polarizing Green New Deal as the center of their climate change agenda. 

“Democrats want to use their reckless tax and spending spree to impose this green new disaster on every American,” said Senate Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso of Wyoming. “It’s socialism masked as environmental policy.” 

As an example of the political posturing in store for lawmakers, Mr. Barrasso, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pushed an amendment to the package prohibiting the implementation of the Green New Deal.

Twelve Democratic supporters of the Green New Deal, including Mr. Sanders and Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, lambasted the amendment as “a tired and failed Republican attempt to throw speed bumps on the road to climate action.” 

“The power of the Green New Deal has struck a chord in this country,” they said in a statement. “Americans see how a Green New Deal can transform our economy and democracy to address climate change.” 

Despite the tough rhetoric, all 50 Senate Democrats voted for the amendment to deny Republicans any political leverage. Mr. Barrasso, though, was not fazed by the vote, arguing it proved just how toxic the policy was among ordinary voters. 

“Senate Democrats are running from the Green New Deal,” he said. “The entire Senate has now rejected these failed ideas.” 

Apart from pushing Democrats to take a stand on climate change, Republicans have also filed amendments to oppose the defunding of police, prevent an expansion of the Internal Revenue Service and ensure schools re-open for in-person instruction.  

Sen. James Lankford, in particular, is pushing Democrats to go on record about abortion. The Oklahoma Republican has introduced an amendment to prevent taxpayer funds from going to fund abortions. 

“Just because a child is inside the womb does not mean they should be treated any differently by the law,” he said. “My amendment restates the long-term agreement that no taxpayer dollars fund abortion, and no American should be punished for refusing to participate in an abortion.”

The issue had long received bipartisan support, but in recent years has been abandoned by Democrats. 

While most of the amendments are unlikely to succeed, most Republicans see the process as an opportunity to inform the public about what they see as the “radical transformation” Democrats had in store for the country. 

“This behemoth of a spending bill is packed with far-left, radical policies [from] amnesty for illegals … to massive tax hikes that’ll destroy Montana small businesses, farms and ranches,” said Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican. “To pass this wish-list of liberal policies at the expense of taxpayers is a mistake and takes our country in a dangerous lurch to the left.” 

Republicans are also likely to make the party-line spending package a top campaign issue of the 2022 midterms. Mr. Daines, who was just re-elected last year, is already out with a new video on social media warning Montanans about the “Democrats spending extravaganza.”

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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