- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2021

Senate Democrats on Monday rolled out their $3.5 trillion spending package, promising that it will be the most “consequential piece of legislation” since the New Deal. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Democrats would pass an initial resolution, which will lay out the package’s top-line numbers and priorities, before lawmakers leave town this week for a month-long break. Once the resolution is passed, various Senate committees will begin drafting the package. 

“At its core, this legislation is about restoring the middle class in the 21st century and giving more Americans the opportunity to get there,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat. “By making education, health care, child care and housing more affordable, we can give tens of millions of families a leg up.” 

Democrats have dubbed the $3.5 trillion package “human infrastructure” in hopes of making it an easier sell to voters. In reality, however, the legislation amounts to a wish list of liberal priorities, including new climate change regulations and amnesty for undocumented immigrants. 

Because those provisions are unlikely to garner Republican support, Democrats plan to pass it along party lines via budget reconciliation. The process allows spending measures to avoid the Senate’s 60-vote hurdle and pass with a simple majority of 51 votes.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders, a self-avowed socialist from Vermont who will oversee the reconciliation process, said it was imperative for Democrats to bypass Republicans and deliver a win for working people. 

SEE ALSO: Budget envisions $107 billion to grant amnesty, stiffen border security

“The $3.5 trillion [reconciliation bill] … will be the most consequential piece of legislation for working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor since FDR and the New Deal of the 1930s,” Mr. Sanders said. “And yes, we will pass this budget with 51 votes, not 60, by passing it under the rules of reconciliation.” 

A summary of the package released by Mr. Schumer’s office shows that Democrats plan to use the package to radically transform the U.S. economy. Democrats are planning to include:

• Free tuition at all community colleges. 
• Money to create a civilian climate corps to put young Americans to work on green energy-related projects. Participants would be paid $15 an hour or more for weatherizing buildings, fighting forest fires and capping oil wells.
• An expansion of Obamacare and guaranteed paid family and medical leave to employees. 
• A taxpayer-backed clean electricity standard that will give incentives to utilities to jettison coal and natural gas in favor of solar and wind power. 
• Universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-old children. 
• Long-term care for older adults and people who have disabilities. It also includes an expansion of Medicare benefits to cover hearing, dental and vision services. 
• Money for homeowners to retrofit their properties to be in line with new climate change regulations. 
• Investments in electric vehicles as well as money to transition the federal government away from using gas-powered cars. 
• Repealing the $10,000 cap for the state and local tax deduction.

Also included within the package is a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are in the country illegally, which President Biden has made a top priority. 

“We will bring undocumented people out of the shadows and provide them with a pathway to citizenship, including those who courageously kept our economy running in the middle of a deadly pandemic,” Mr. Sanders said. 

It is not clear, however, if that provision would be able to pass the Senate’s rigorous rules for what can be included in reconciliation. The Senate parliamentarian did not return requests for comment.

To pay for all of the new spending, Democrats are eyeing a repeal of former President Donald Trump’s signature tax cuts. 

“To restore fairness to our tax code and pay for these once-in-a-generation investments, the Finance Committee has been working on a menu of options for the caucus to consider,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat. 

Mr. Wyden’s panel is looking to raise corporate and international taxes, as well as increasing income taxes for high-income earners. Democrats also are planning to expand the powers of the IRS to crack down on tax scofflaws and instituting a “carbon polluter import fee.”

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

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